SACRAMENTO -- Gavin Maloof once described a potential downtown Sacramento arena as “a beacon of light, shining bright.” Vivek Ranadivé likened the idea of Golden 1 Center as the modern town square, cathedral or communal hearth.
On Friday, Ranadivé might have finally found the best way to describe his $500-plus million arena in the center of Sacramento’s downtown core. Speaking to the Sacramento Bee, Ranadivé said, "you can't always dictate what the stories are that are being told around the fireplace."
Thousands of protesters surrounded Ranadivé’s fireplace on Thursday evening. They locked arms and barred fans from coming in the building as the Kings faced the Atlanta Hawks.
In one night, Golden 1 Center was transformed from the home of the Kings, to something much more. It became the meeting place for the protesters to vent their frustrations after the officer-involved shooting death of Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old African American from South Sacramento.
The Kings’ first reaction was to protect the fans that had entered the building. They locked down the arena and cleared everyone from the massive windows that highlight the grand entrance. The limited number of fans allowed in the building were treated to seat upgrades and unlimited free food.
After securing the safety of the fans inside, the team chose a specific course of action. Instead of pointing fingers at protesters who likely cost the franchise hundreds of thousands of dollars, they allowed Golden 1 Center to become the heart of Sacramento.
It’s not always going to be about basketball or concerts or Disney on Ice. For Golden 1 Center to become what Ranadivé envisions, it has to be a place for everyone.
Instead of shunning the protest and turning their ire towards the thousands outside, Ranadivé had his defining moment, not just as an owner, but as a leader in the Sacramento community.
“The Kings recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully and we respect that,” Ranadivé said from center court. “We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform. It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously and we stand before you; old, young, black, white, brown and we are all united in our commitment.”
His postgame speech was humble and showed a different side of the Kings’ Chairman. It was also a moment for the franchise to become part of a larger conversation that is facing nearly every community in America.
To turn a blind eye to social injustice and civil unrest would violate the spirit of what Golden 1 Center was created for. If it is truly the fireplace of Sacramento, then there has to be an open invitation - not just for basketball, and not just for protests, but for all that a community has to give.
The Kings aren’t asking for games to be interrupted on a regular basis. But the team’s handling of the situation has opened the door for Golden 1 Center to become the communal meeting place they hoped it would be when they broke ground.