SACRAMENTO -- The Kings weren't prepared for the chaos of Thursday evening. Who would be? As protesters engulfed the perimeter of Golden 1 Center, locking arms and blocking the entrances to the building, the reaction inside was to close the doors and regroup.
By the final whistle, the Kings were ready to respond. Instead of crying foul, they chose to embrace the situation. Owner Vivek Ranadivé stood at half court following the Kings' win over the Atlanta Hawks and gave an impassioned speech about unity.
"We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform," Ranadivé said. "It's a privilege, but it's also a responsibility. It's a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment."
Sunday morning, the Kings are accepting a larger role in the conversation regarding race relations in the Sacramento community and around the United States. Celtics management with coach Brad Stevens and the team reached out to the Kings and will participate in some of the events of the day as well.
The Kings plan to come out on the court wearing a specially designed warm-up shirt with the the words, "Accountability. We are One" across the front and "#StephonClark" on the back.
Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African American father of two, was killed in an officer involved shooting a week ago in a South Sacramento neighborhood.
Protests broke out following the release of the body cam and helicopter footage of the incident by the Sacramento Police Department. Those protests spilled over into the courtyard surrounding Golden 1 Center on Thursday evening, causing an estimated 15,000 fans to miss the game.
"It was definitely a different environment, but looking back at it, I'm glad to be a part of that," veteran Garrett Temple explained after practice on Saturday afternoon. "Especially after what our owner, Vivek said after the game, showing support for the right to protest. What we're doing tomorrow will show even more support for the tragedy that happened."
Temple was vocal following the game on Thursday evening, like he has been in the past regarding social injustice in America. As a veteran on the squad, he, along with Vince Carter, fielded the majority of the questions regarding the non-basketball related issues. But it's a learning experience for the youth of the team.
"They're young, they're kids, so some guys are asking, ‘why are they protesting outside the arena, what does that do?,'" Temple said of the eight young players on the team. "We're trying to explain to them that this is a national stage. This is how you create chatter around what has happened if you keep 10,000-12,000 people out of an NBA arena the night of a game, this is how this (situation) becomes national news, if it wasn't already. And this is how they get their message across."
Harry Giles is one of those kids sitting on the Sacramento Kings' bench. The 19-year-old big hasn't played this season while rehabbing his knees, but he was in attendance as the night unfolded on Thursday. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.
"When you're actually here and you get a feel for it and see how people are hurt, there's a reason they're doing that, the reason is pain and trying to get a point across," Giles said. "It's tough, but at the same time, it's something you have to be ready for and just know how to handle it the right way."
Giles could very well be a sophomore in college. He even joked that at just a year and a half out of high school, he could be heading to prom this weekend. Instead, he's getting a crash course in the all-encompassing world of being a professional athlete.
"Definitely still trying to learn, trying to get more awareness about it, trying to find a way to be comfortable to talk about it and really be able to express yourself in a positive way," Giles said. "It's tough."
With the Kings thrust into the national spotlight, even Dave Joerger, who typically sticks to only basketball related topics, responded to questions regarding the players' decision to take a stand on Sunday.
"I'm supportive of the players, their ability to have a platform, to speak and it's out of love and concern and what they're feeling," coach Dave Joerger said. "I'm always going to support the players, even if I agree or disagree in any different things. That's one, and number two is that we do it together."
It appears this experience has worked to pull the team closer together. It's given certain players a platform to speak their mind and it's been a learning experience for others.
Temple was very quick to add how proud he is of Ranadivé for taking the stance that he and the organization chose. The team could have handled everything in a variety of ways, but ownership and management sought out the council of the players.
"For him to go out after that game and support the protest and understand that there are things bigger than basketball, like I said, show support as publically as he did, that speaks volumes to his character and I love to be a part of an organization that did that," Temple added.
Following the game, Ranadivé, Temple and others even spoke to the organizers of the protest to further understand their position and see how they could further the cause.
In addition to the Kings wearing t-shirts, which were designed by the players, the Kings and Celtics have developed a public service announcement video that will show on the main video boards in the arena on Sunday.