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Philadelphia Sixers head coach Doc Rivers is utilizing his platform as an NBA coach to fight prejudice and racial injustice, campaign for politicians he believes in and advocate for meaningful social change.
“When you hear, ‘America first,’ that scares me, because I’m a Black man and that’s not including me,” Rivers said last week in an interview with The Associated Press. “I want us to all be included. I want us all to function with each other.”
Rivers was first an All-Star guard and then as a head coach won the 2008 championship with the Boston Celtics. This year Rivers was selected as one of the 15 Greatest Coaches in NBA History.
The Sixers practiced at The Citadel, the military college where tanks, jets and plaques dedicated to prisoners of wars cover the campus, an education all part of Rivers’ plan to teach more than basketball. “All of it is good for us,” Rivers said.
The Sixers usually hold camp at their New Jersey complex but Rivers wanted to strengthen team bonding with a road trip. The Sixers gathered last week for team dinners, played card and video games, and had serious conversations, the type of day-to-day activities largely shelved the last two seasons because of COVID-19 protocols.
Determined to build team camaraderie, Rivers states, “When you have camp at home, you don’t get that. They go home at the end of practice and they don’t spend time with each other.”
Rivers was a guard with the Knicks in the early 1990s when the team held camp at the College of Charleston. At the time, then-coach Pat Riley made the players walk from the team hotel to the arena.
Doc Rivers and the Sixers have organized field trips to the Old Slave Mart Museum, often staffed by individuals who trace their history to the enslaved people of Charleston, and to the Avery Institute of Afro-American History and Culture. Citadel President Gen. Glenn Walters and retired professor and historian Bernard Powers both spoke to the team.
“My people, my African people coming here, the people that gave up their lives for us to be able to be in this position, it was good to learn about all of that,” said Sixers center Joel Embiid, who was born in Cameroon and recently became a U.S. citizen.
Powers said by phone that he talked to the Sixers at their team hotel about such topics as the role Charleston played in the trans-Atlantic slave trade, the slave revolt of 1739 and the descendants of enslaved people known as Gullah, who live in small island communities scattered over 425 miles (684 kilometers) of the Southern Atlantic U.S. coast.
“This was the port where a greatly disproportionate number of Africans were brought here,” Powers said. “This place, more than any other, might be very likely a source of their ancestry. They could think about perhaps having a personal connection to this place.”
Information in this article was obtained via NBC News.