SACRAMENTO -- Racial tensions in Sacramento have hit a fever pitch and the Kings are in the eye of the storm. As City Council met to discuss the officer involved shooting death of Stephon Clark on Tuesday evening, the protests once again spilled out into the courtyard surrounding Golden 1 Center.
With knowledge that there was potential for issues, the team opened their doors early in an attempt to avoid conflict. There were no issues until roughly 6:30 when a small group of 40-60 protesters ascended upon the entrances of Golden 1 Center.
For the second time in three games, the Kings were forced to close their doors to paying customers. Maybe worse, they had no choice but to leave their fanbase caught outside in the midst of protesters and armed police.
Slightly more than 4,000 fans were allowed in the building before the lockdown occurred, an increase from the 2,500 that made it into the arena last Thursday evening when the team hosted the Atlanta Hawks.
The team is caught in a difficult situation. While the events were playing out quickly outside, Owner Vivek Ranadivé, COO Matina Kolokotronis, President of Business Operations John Rinehart, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations for the NBA Kiki Vandeweghe amongst others met inside the main entrance doors to Golden 1 Center on Tuesday evening.
After long discussions, the team had no other choice but to ask the remaining 10,000-plus fans waiting outside, to go home.
Following the loss to the Mavericks, the team released the following statement:
“Tonight’s demonstrations beginning at City Hall migrated to Golden 1 Center preventing ticketed guests from safely entering the arena. The safety of our guests is our number one priority. Due to law enforcement being unable to allow ticketed fans to safely enter the arena, the doors were closed to maintain guest and public safety.
"We continue to work with law enforcement and City leadership to ensure the safety and security of fans and the public on Thursday and at future events.”
We very well could see a similar situation play out on Thursday evening as the Kings play host to the Indiana Pacers. Civil rights activist, Reverend Al Sharpton, is scheduled to be in Sacramento Thursday to give a eulogy at Clark’s funeral and the turnout is expected to be high.
WHO:— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) March 28, 2018
Rev. Al Sharpton, National Civil Rights Leader & President of National Action Network
Funeral Services for #StephonClark
Bayside Boss Church
6528 44th Street
Sacramento, CA 95823
Sr. Pastor Darryl A. Scarbrough
Thursday, March 29 at 11:00-1:00 p.m. pic.twitter.com/PkryNjazgC
The Kings are aware of the potential for more protests and have spent Wednesday morning making preparations.
“We are meeting with the Mayor, law enforcement and community leaders today and are committed to ensuring the safety and security of fans on Thursday and future events. We will continue to provide updates as they become available,” the Kings relayed to NBC Sports California.
While the Kings have made contingency plans for Thursday, they can only do so much without the aid of the police department. There will be a plan in place to help facilitate the safe arrival of fans, but the team does not employ armed security for events and to avoid escalating the tension, police have chosen to stand down.
After two days of activity, the Sacramento Police Department made a commitment to facilitate the safety of fans in statements to the Sacramento Bee Wednesday.
“We will be working with the Kings organization to make sure that we have a strategic plan, because obviously we are concerned about people’s safety,” Sgt. Vance Chandler told the Bee. “And we also are concerned about people being able to attend the game they paid tickets to go view.”
“We know how important that is for the people who are hoping to go to the game and enjoy their time,” Chandler added. “And we also know that people are concerned about their safety and we want to make sure that everybody in our city is safe.”
This is clearly an evolving story. We will continue to update fans as information becomes available throughout Thursday.