Memphis Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins watched a televised interview on Friday of Tyre Nichols’ mother speaking about the loss of her son, and lost control of his emotions.
“I cried,” Jenkins said.
The outrage, frustration, sadness and anger was evident around the NBA on Friday, the day that video was released showing how Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was killed by five Memphis police officers. Several teams released statements of support for the family, as did the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.
And the emotions around the league were palpable, as has been the case so many times after so many other incidents of violence by police against Black men and women in recent years.
“This is just crazy,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, who opened his pregame news conference Friday by speaking about Nichols before any questions were even asked.
The officers, all of whom are also Black, all face second-degree murder charges, as well as charges of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression. And the Grizzlies played a game in Minneapolis — the city where George Floyd, a Black man, was killed after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck in an act that sparked protests worldwide over police brutality and racism — on Friday night with heavy hearts.
“The senseless loss of life for Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard,” Jenkins told Bally Sports, the Grizzlies’ broadcast partner, in a pregame interview from Minnesota. “It’s been tough being on the road, not being home. I wish I could extend my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot.”
There was a moment of silence before the game in Minnesota. And afterward, Jenkins continued speaking out about what it means to the Grizzlies to represent Memphis at such a trying time.
“There’s way harder things on in the city versus what’s going on with our basketball right now,” Jenkins said after Memphis’ 111-100 loss in Minnesota. “I’m proud of our guys going out there. We’re playing with heavy hearts, but we’re also playing for our city that’s going through a lot right now.”
Several teams, including Miami, Atlanta, Cleveland, Minnesota and Milwaukee, along with Memphis, released statements.
“We are outraged by the deadly beating that Tyre Nichols received from five Memphis police officers,” the Bucks said in their statement. “While the police officers being charged for their heinous actions is an important step for justice, this incident further highlights the need for progress in improving police-community relations.”
The NBA released its statement about two hours after the video of Nichols' death was released, while protests were going on in multiple cities in reaction to the images.
“The images of Tyre Nichols' life needlessly cut short are horrifying,” the league said. “While there have been steps toward accountability in this instance, the NBA family remains committed to partnering with advocates, policymakers and law enforcement to work toward solutions to the issues we continue to face.”
Nichols was on his way home from taking pictures of the sky on Jan. 7, when police pulled him over. He was just a few minutes from the home he shared with his mother and stepfather.
“Our hearts go out to the entire Memphis community as they are processing and dealing with this horrible tragedy, and we stand by the rightful arrest of all officers involved,” the NBPA said. “Such aggressive policing and excessive force illustrate the continued need for accountability in the justice system.”
The union said it would “continue to monitor the investigation and legal proceedings in search of justice for Tyre and his family.”
Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, warned supporters of the “horrific” nature of the video but pleaded for peace.
Jenkins also said he hopes citizens of Memphis rally around one another.
“My words will only mean so much,” Jenkins said. “I want to continue to encourage people to put their arms around each other, put their arms around the Nichols family, the Wells family to remember a beautiful life in Tyre Nichols — who I did not know, but I’m learning about."
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