Vivek Ranadive, the chairman of the Sacramento Kings, is the NBA's first owner of Indian origin. But he has made a name for himself less for his personal background and his business decisions, and more for his hallmark of standing up for what he feels is right. He is a progressive owner in an increasingly progressive league. He joined the calls for Donald Sterling's ouster from the Clippers, after a tape surfaced in which Sterling spouted racist views to his mistress. Ranadive backed the NBA's All-Star Game location shift in 2017 from Charlotte, after the state legislature and governor of North Carolina passed and signed into law House Bill 2, a controversial measure that prevented transgender people from using the restroom consistent with their gender identity, among other things.
But following the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police officers this past March, it was Ranadive's simple acknowledgement that business could not go on as normal that continues to resonate. "We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform," Ranadive said from midcourt after the game. "It's a privilege, but it's also a responsibility. It's a responsibility we take really seriously. We stand before you—old, young, black, white, brown—and we are all united in our commitment."
Ranadive was, in part, responding to the calls from activists who had staged a protest in Clark's name outside of the Kings' arena. "It was something that was on people's minds," Ranadive says now. "It was on my mind and you could see that it was something that deeply impacted the whole community."
He did not realize how far his words had echoed. A barista at the coffee shop he frequents thanked him the following day by paying for his coffee and muffin. A friend living in Paris emailed him. "I was blown away by how this went," Ranadive recalls now. "Everyone all over the world responded, and the next day and the weeks to come, my phone was ringing off the hook and I was getting phone calls, text messages, emails from everybody from all over the world—from people in politics to generals to pastors."
It didn't stop there. Ranadive's team—along with members of the opposing Boston Celtics—wore T-shirts with "#StephonClark" on the back. They also appeared in a PSA—"Accountability. We are one"—about police brutality. These gestures caught the attention of many. It didn't quell the concerns of others: At a home game against Dallas a few contests later, community protestors barred the entrance and challenged the organization to do more.
Ranadive and his organization have continued to engage. The Kings recently partnered with the Build. Black. Coalition and the Black Child Legacy Campaign to launch a youth summer basketball league to help Sacramento heal in the wake of Clark's death. The franchise, again with the help of Build. Black. Coalition as well as Black Lives Matter Sacramento, also announced the creation of an education fund for Clark's children.
And the world has taken note.
Ranadive's power move demonstrates how impactful a simple acknowledgement from a genuine place can be. "I just picked up the mic and gave voice to what people were thinking and I was surrounded by my staff, by my players and I was just speaking from the heart, just saying what any person of decency would say," Ranadive says.
Jonathan Abrams is a senior writer for B/R Mag. A former staff writer at Grantland and sports reporter at the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Abrams is also the best-selling author of All the Pieces Matter: The Inside Story of The Wire—available right here, right now. Follow him on Twitter: @jpdabrams
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