Kings partner with Black Lives Matter after Stephon Clark’s death
Demonstrators protesting the shooting death of Stephon Clark by Sacramento Police officers block the entrance to the Golden 1 Center before a Sacramento Kings game, March 27, in Sacramento, Calif. Clark, who was unarmed, was shot and killed a week earlier. Rich Pedroncelli | AP

Let’s be honest with ourselves, when it comes to sports and politics there is no real difference. Both battle for the number one spot, to Hell with the odds, and justice is only achieved through direct and collective action.

This is why the Sacramento Kings late Wednesday announcement of an official partnership with Black Lives Matter, in the wake of Stephon Clark’s death at the hands of Sacramento Police, is significant: It further shows that athletes are no longer just sticking to sports.

The Kings will be setting up an education fund for Clark’s two young children, co-sponsor a forum in south Sacramento Friday night, and working with the Build. Black. Coalition “to support the education of young people and to provide the workforce preparation and economic development efforts.”

Kings players Vince Carter and Garrett Temple and retired guard Doug Christie are scheduled to appear at an event titled “Kings and Queens Rise: A Youth Voice Forum for Healing” at 5 p.m. Friday at South Sacramento Christian Church.

“This tragic death really humanized something that’s been felt deeply in this community for a long time, something that’s been brewing,” Build. Black. Coalition. spokesperson Darcy Totten said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee. “Our goal is to fundamentally transform the conditions that led to the death of Stephon Clark, because those conditions are systemic.”

Stephon Clark, a 22 year-old Black father, was shot 20 times in his Grandparent’s back yard by two officers who “believed” he was an armed burglary suspect. Clark’s cellphone was mistaken for a gun, and footage of the shooting has set off national protests.

“This fund cannot fix the issues that led to the death of their father,” the Kings said in a statement. “But it will secure opportunities for their futures while the family and the city grapple with the healing.”

Clark’s funeral was held Thursday, hours before the scheduled Kings’ game, and the service was paid for, in part, by NBA veteran, Sacramento native, and father to two Matt Barnes.

“I’ve been talking to the family since it happened, just trying to get an understanding of what’s going on, and their grief and their pain,” Barnes told reporters Thursday. “I chose to step in to try to eliminate any financial burdens, because they’re already going through enough.”

“This is where I grew up. There is where I kind of got my name at, and it’s something where I wanted to come and try to make a difference.”

As a city, community, and family continue to feel the raw pain of a preventable and far too common tragedy, words are now replaced by action.

“It’s just us doing our part,” said Kings shooting guard Vince Carter. “It’s a touchy, sensitive subject. But it’s something that needs to be done. A healthy conversation needs to happen. We just need to educate ourselves, on both sides of the fence. Whatever side of the fence you’re on, whether you’re neutral, it’s a conversation that needs to happen.

“It’s one of those when we sit here and say, ‘Where do we go from here?’ That’s what the conversation is. You figure out where do we go from here. Because if you don’t, we all sit here in our feelings, and you never get anything accomplished.”


Al Neal
Al Neal

Award winning journalist Al Neal is PW associate editor for labor and politics. He is also the chief photographer for People's World. He is a member of the Chicago News Guild, Society of Professional Journalists, Professional Photographers of America, National Sports Media Association, and The Ernest Brooks Foundation.