Ever since those terrible years where relocation sagas were an annual event and the city of Sacramento was in a seemingly endless fight to keep the Kings where they belong, the Sacramento Kings have been linked to politics through reasons both good and bad. Since those hectic days of emotional rallies, grassroots movements, and drastic desperation, Bigger Than Basketball has been repeated as an unofficial mantra to the point where it has bordered on both hyperbolic and cliché. Up until now, the relationship between politics and the Sacramento Kings has been looked at through the scope of economic outlook, fervent civic pride, and the impact which the team has on the region. The political roller coaster has had its ups and downs since Vivek Ranadivé bought the team in 2013, but it has largely stayed on the team’s front lawn.
Flash forward to 2018, and the worlds of politics and sports have grown increasingly hard to separate with the issues taking form on a much larger scale. Anthem protests across the NFL, their trickle down to other sports, and the ensuing media frenzy which stretched far beyond the comfort of the sports section have made the line between the worlds of sports and politics increasingly blurred. It spilled over to the NBA, from the Warriors refusal to visit the White House, to coaches such as Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich speaking publicly on a variety of political issues, to the recent outcry caused by Laura Ingraham when she ordered LeBron James to, “Shut up and dribble,” after a video of both he and Kevin Durant speaking candidly about their thoughts on the current presidential administration went viral.
Until last Thursday, when hundreds of protesters formed a circle around the Golden 1 Center and prevented a majority of Kings fans from getting inside the arena, the Kings were yet to find themselves on the national political radar. When Ranadivé spoke about the tragic shooting of Stephon Clark by the Sacramento Police Department, he was met with praise and skepticism from fans and media across the country. Some saw it as a step in the right direction, with an owner speaking out while so many others refuse to get involved. Others fairly questioned whether the Kings were doing anything about the situation, or simply putting on a PR stunt to protect their images. It was an important event, an owner speaking out, but without any action behind it, it never would have held much meaning. After a similar protest once again kept fans out of the game on Tuesday night, many wondered how the Kings would respond, and whether or not they’d be so understanding. It wasn’t until Wednesday night when the fans, the media, the league, and the rest of the sports community got their answer.
By partnering with Black Lives Matter, and becoming an active part in such a politically divisive movement, the Kings have made their point clear. They are not going to stick to sports, nor are they going to shut up and dribble. Many people, including myself, were inconvenienced by the protests because we did not get to go to a basketball game. Some took it well, others were vocally upset, but if the worst thing that has happened to us involves our inability to watch a bunch of strangers bounce a ball for a couple of hours, we’re having a good day. The Kings are attaching themselves to an issue that is truly Bigger Than Basketball not because of entertainment or monetary value, but because it is affecting human lives, and that is why it is important for the Kings to take a public stand.
Sacramento has a unique opportunity as the only major professional sports team in town to go beyond the walls of sports and entertainment and actually get involved in things that matter. Those who have followed players, past and present, like Garrett Temple, Vince Carter, and DeMarcus Cousins are not going to be shocked that they have gotten involved in the recent events. Basketball will only get this team so far, and if the Kings stand back and ignore a story which has found itself on their front porch and forced itself into their narrative, they are doing a disservice to both themselves and to the community. For years we spoke about the importance that this team has for the city and for us, now is when they prove and take the proper steps toward promoting that same social change that so many other teams have chosen to ignore. The beautiful arena, the team that plays inside it, and the outcome of the games don’t mean a thing if the Kings exclusively stick to sports when they have an important opportunity to become one of the first teams in this current political climate to acknowledge that something has to change. Now, we wait and see what happens when the talk becomes action, and the Kings take on an issue which is truly Bigger than Basketball.