CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Nobody offered specific plans, but Charlotte Hornets coach Steve Clifford said during the team's media day on Monday that the organization is "in conversations now about ways that we can help" a city ravaged in recent days by turmoil.
"I'm sure you all saw the statement from our owner [Michael Jordan], who basically asked all of us to find ways to be a part of the solution," Clifford said. "There was a guy who played at Harvard a long time ago named Arne Duncan, and he was in president [Barack] Obama's first cabinet. There was a problem, and he said, 'Use every crisis as an opportunity.' I think that, hopefully, that's what we'll do. We've had conversations internally with our players on ways that we can help. I know that they want to do that. And like anything, there are many ways that I think professional athletes can make a positive impact, and reach out and do those things. That's our plan going forward -- follow our owner's lead and try to help our community in a positive way."
In the midst of what would turn out to be six nights of protests -- some of which turned violent, resulting in vandalism, looting and one protester suffering critical injury -- Jordan released a statement through the team in which he called for order. The city had witnessed both peaceful demonstrations and violent protests every day since Tuesday night, when a black Charlotte police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott, who is black, in an apartment complex parking lot approximately 15 minutes from downtown.
"It is more important than ever that we restore calm and come together, as a community, in peaceful demonstration and conversation and in constructive and non-violent ways," Jordan said in the statement released by the team. "As part of the fabric of Charlotte, the Hornets organization is committed to working with civic leaders, our elected leaders and law enforcement to foster more trust, transparency and understanding so we can heal and grow together as a community."
The uptown block near the Hornets' arena endured some of the heaviest damage during the protests. Vandals broke out windows at the EpiCentre entertainment complex, which is next to the team's home court, the Spectrum Center, in addition to looting stores. Team officials had said the Hornets Fan Shop, which sells team memorabilia, suffered extensive damage and would be closed until further notice. But a security officer working outside the store on Monday said that on Tuesday the Hornets Fan Shop would be reopened.
Fewer than 24 hours prior to the Hornets hitting the court, the Carolina Panthers hosted the Minnesota Vikings at Bank of America Stadium in a game declared an "extraordinary event" by Charlotte interim city manager Ron Kimble on Saturday. According to the city's news release, an extraordinary even it defined as a "large-scale event or an event of national or international significance which might attract a significant number of people to a certain geographic area of the city." That designation gave the city power to modify its permitting process for different activities such as parades, while specifying particular items that are prohibited from being taken into certain boundaries of the event.
Hornets point guard Kemba Walker called the situation "heartbreaking."
"It's always a tough situation on both ends. I can't really speak for the police officers," Walker said. "I don't know what they're feeling at the time. I don't know what they're going through. But it's hard. It's hard to watch. It's really hard to watch. I never want to see anyone being killed for no reason. So it's pretty disturbing and pretty hard to watch."
Even still, Walker feels himself, teammates and the rest of the NBA shoulder the responsibility in aiding in the healing process; not just in Charlotte, but all over the country.
"You know what? We're working on that as an organization, the NBA, just as a league," Walker said. "The NBPA, [executive director] Michele [Roberts], she does a great job with our league and helping us get out in the community. That's what we're going to do. We're gonna get out there in the community and do what we can do to help. Right now, I don't know how. But it's in the works. It's gonna happen.
"I think we will be proactive. It takes time. It takes a lot of people, takes an effort. We're definitely gonna make that effort, especially us having to live here. Me, I've been here going on six years now. I hate to see these things happen. So I'm definitely gonna get out there in the community and do what I can. I want to be a part of it, and I will."
A native of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who had previously played for the Charlotte Bobcats from 2012 to 2014, guard Ramon Sessions vowed to do the same.
"Me being from the Carolinas, I know the area well. It's one of those things that's a touchy subject, unfortunate, one of those incidents," Sessions said. "As America, we're better than that. We've just got to become better. It's not just one person, not two people -- it starts with everybody. As a figure in this community, we've got to come in and help out the community. Charlotte is a great city, and at the end of the day, we'll come together."
Center Cody Zeller believes "it is good that we've started the conversation about this. We'll see what happens with the NBA players, what we end up doing."
Interestingly, approximately 12 hours prior to the Hornets taking the court for media day, some protesters still lingered in the streets while several soldiers from the Army National Guard posted up at various spots in uptown such as the Omni Hotel and Ritz-Carlton Hotel along East Trade Street, where the Spectrum Center is located. By Monday afternoon, it appeared a level of normalcy had returned to uptown as the soldiers had left, with only a small police presence still lingering.
At the intersection of North Caldwell and East Trade Street, where the Hyatt House in uptown boarded up several windows due to damage from Wednesday night's riots, several local artists -- on an open invitation by the hotel -- worked to paint murals, including a tribute to Scott, over the plywood to help jump-start the healing process. That hotel sits right next to the Spectrum Center.
"It's been difficult here the last few days, I would say, in Charlotte, but the city is going to recover from this," Hornets forward Marvin Williams said. "Charlotte has been a great city, a great place to live, and I think people are excited to get things back to normal."
That could prove difficult given all the city has endured.
Remember, the 2017 NBA All-Star Game was originally schedule to be played in Charlotte, but the league pulled out of the event due to a law dubbed "the bathroom bill" that some say can lead to discrimination against the LGBT community. The NCAA also pulled seven championships out of the state, and the ACC has decided to move its conference championship football game out of Charlotte.
"It's disappointing," Clifford said of the All-Star Game going elsewhere. "It's a great thing for the city. It's a great three or four days. You have the elite players in your city. It's a lot of fun; all of the programming and everything that goes with it. It's great for young kids. It's great for basketball junkies. There's a lot going on. So that part, I feel badly for the city. Then, there were so many people within our organization, starting with [president, chief operating officer and alternate governor] Fred Whitfield, who put so much work into bringing the All-Star Game here. To do all that work and be awarded the game, I also felt badly for them."
Walker, meanwhile, said he's "super bummed" about the league moving the All-Star Game.
Details regarding specific plans for the Hornets to make a mark in the community remain sketchy, but forward Spencer Hawes, who is outspoken regarding political matters, thinks "it's very important" for the team to take on a lead role in the healing process in Charlotte. Hawes said that although he respects San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem as a response to social injustice, the Hornets likely won't be following suit unless NBA rules change. NBA players are required to stand during the playing of the national anthem.
"With regards to the anthem stuff, I know that it's in the rulebook that we're not allowed to do that. So I don't think that will be an issue," Hawes said. "But I think getting the dialogue going is important whether you agree with it or not. It's a step in the process.
"Basically, as soon as I came back into town is sort of when things started to heat up [with the protests in Charlotte]. I just think it's important that we as members of the community and as guys that people in the community look up to, I think it's important that we do what we can to focus on going forward, what we can do to bring everybody together to improve relations and to bring the community back even stronger than before. I think we have a special opportunity as athletes to try and build those bridges, to try to bring everybody together. Obviously, in a time like now, it's gonna be paramount."