This was supposed to be a column on the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth, the veteran offensive tackle who suffered a serious knee injury nearly eight weeks ago and is expected to return to the lineup for Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game in Seattle.
But how do you write about sports, about the NFL and business as usual, on a day when the U.S. Capitol is under siege?
Normal business must take a backseat when the scenes on afternoon television and the headlines on newspaper websites resemble something out of a dystopian novel or a bad TV movie. A mob breached the U.S. Capitol. Tear gas was released, shots were fired and someone was killed, explosive devices on the Capitol grounds were found by the FBI, the rioters looted and smashed windows, and some who defiled the office of the Speaker of the House and the well of the Senate chamber couldn’t resist posing for pictures, so proud were they of their actions.
And they were encouraged by the outgoing President of the United States. God help us.
It is worth a reminder here: Donald J. Trump’s allegations of election fraud have been rejected or thrown out of 60 out of 61 courts in which his lawyers have argued. In the world I normally write about, you hit the road long before you have a chance to go 1-60.
Have we crossed the Rubicon, or is this the most extreme of outliers? On a day and in a country where many of us were shaken by the images we saw, Doc Rivers provided an optimistic view.
Rivers, now coach of the 76ers, eloquently noted last August after the police shooting of another Black man that “It’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country does not love us back. It’s really so sad.”
Wednesday, he noted – as did so many others during the course of the day – the dichotomy between how these rioters were treated by law enforcement and the way, say, Black Lives Matter protesters might be treated. But he also said this:
“I keep hearing that this is an attack on democracy. It is not. Democracy will prevail. It always does.”
Doc Rivers on today’s events: “I will say it, because I don’t think a lot of people want to. Can you imagine today, if those were all black people storming the Capitol, and what would have happened? That, to me, is a picture that’s worth a thousand words for all of us to see.” pic.twitter.com/tk9I35Ksgw
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 6, 2021
We have paused sports for political assassinations, for the worst attack on U.S. soil by foreign terrorists on 9/11/01, for the worst pandemic of our lifetimes and, this past August, in response to Jacob Blake being killed by police, the incident to which Rivers had referred.
Games were played as scheduled Wednesday, but the Miami Heat and Boston Celtics considered boycotting their scheduled game in Miami and issued a joint statement that referred to “heavy hearts” because of the decision in Kenosha not to charge the officers who shot Blake while noting “that protesters in our nation’s capital are treated differently by political leaders depending on what side of certain issues they are on.”
The Celtics and Heat just issued this joint statement: pic.twitter.com/GEotTPnEoJ
— Tim Bontemps (@TimBontemps) January 7, 2021
Elsewhere in the NBA, the Bucks and Detroit Pistons took a knee right after tipoff in Detroit.
Bucks and Pistons players took a knee to start tonight’s game. pic.twitter.com/hz4ASdJhDI
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 7, 2021
Clippers’ coach Ty Lue, in his pregame briefing and as related by SCNG colleague Mirjam Swanson, said: “Saddest thing for me, talking to our players – they’re not shocked. That’s all messed up.”
Ty Lue: “It’s just a sad day, no one wants to be part of it.
“Saddest thing for me, talking to our players — they’re not shocked. That’s messed up.
“… I’m tired of all the damn talking about it.”
— Mirjam Swanson (@MirjamSwanson) January 7, 2021
And the Warriors’ Steve Kerr added: “A legitimate election is suddenly questioned by millions of people, including many of the people who are leading our country in government, because we’ve decided over the past few years to allow lies to be told. This is who we are. You reap what you sow.”
So what’s next? The games will continue, and at some point this will recede to the backs of our minds and we’ll get on with our lives.
But something seriously changed Wednesday. We saw something we’d never imagined we’d see in our country. Maybe the enablers will realize they need to take a step back. Or maybe it’s already too late.
I fervently hope Doc Rivers is right.
@Jim_Alexander on Twitter