Thursday’s game between the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks was delayed as protesters gathered around the city to protest Sunday’s fatal shooting of 22-year-old, unarmed Stephon Clark.
The start of the game was delayed by roughly 20 minutes as police attempted to clear the entrances of the Kings’ Golden1 Center of a human chain of protesters blocking fans as they made their way inside.
According to ESPN, there was shouting but no violence as an estimated crowd of fewer than 2,000 spectators trickled into the 17,600-seat arena. Eventually, police made the decision to allow no more to enter.
Though there was talk of cancelling or postponing the game, the NBA decided to go ahead with play. Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer told reporters, “Basketball was secondary tonight. The league obviously made the decision that I think was in the best interest of the safety of the fans that were already in the arena. I think it was the right decision by the league but certainly not an easy one.”
Kings owner Vivek Ranadive addressed the diminished crowd at the Golden1 Center, saying, “On Sunday we had a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community. On behalf of the players, executives, ownership and the entire Kings family — first of all, we wanted to express our deepest sympathies to the family. What happened was absolutely horrific, and we are so very sorry, so very sorry for your loss.”
Kings owner and chairman @Vivek addresses the crowd following tonight’s game. pic.twitter.com/yVODGnPovs— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) March 23, 2018
Ranadive went on to address the protesters, saying, “We at the Kings recognize people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that. We here at the Kings recognize we have a big platform — it’s a privilege but it’s also a responsibility — a responsibility we take very seriously. And we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment. We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place starting with our own community.”
After the game, the Kings released a press statement announcing that fans who purchased tickets directly or through Ticketmaster and were unable to attend the game would be able to receive a full refund.