Klay Thompson said he can't blame any NBA players having trouble focusing on basketball right now.
The restarted season is occurring in a "bubble" at the Walt Disney World Resort amid a global pandemic that has killed nearly 170,000 Americans alone and within months of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's deaths at the hands of police. The coronavirus' disparate impact on people of color, coupled with renewed attention on African Americans disproportionately dying in police custody, has laid bare the entrenched systemic inequalities within the United States.
Around three-fourths of NBA players are Black, and the Warriors star said he empathizes with his peers on the 22 NBA teams still playing.
.@KlayThompson sits down to discuss every topic from his style evolution, his NBA championship pick to his favorite Tissot watches that he's rocking this year— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 12, 2020
(@TISSOT) #ThisIsYourTime pic.twitter.com/0j4D2vwYzp
"Honestly, these last few months, it was like divine intervention happening for the world to see what is really going on to a lot of marginalized peoples in this country," Thompson told Brandon Williams in an interview for Bleacher Report. "So I feel for the players right now. It's a hard time to play."
Thompson marched in a protest against systemic racism organized by teammate Juan Toscano-Anderson back in June, and NBA players and coaches have maintained that focus in Orlando.
Players are mentioning Taylor in their pre- and post-game press conferences, calling for the officers involved in her death to be arrested. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's media availability routinely serves as history lessons about American injustice. League-approved social-justice messages adorn the backs of players' jerseys. The NBA announced it's committing $300 million over the next decade to spur economic growth in Black communities.
This all is happening as the NBA seeks to complete its season and crown a champion, with teams resuming for the first time in months in pursuit of the sport's ultimate prize. That's a tall order on its own, and an even taller one for players and coaches using their platforms in an effort to enact meaningful, systemic change.
It's understandable they're doing so with heavy hearts.
[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]