DALLAS — Dallas Mavericks coach Jason Kidd and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr declined to talk about basketball less than two hours before Game 4 of the Western Conference finals tipped off Tuesday.
They had bigger concerns in mind.
Kidd and Kerr spent the entirety of their pregame press conferences discussing the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where at least 18 children and three adults died Tuesday afternoon.
For three minutes in front of cameras and reporters, Kerr delivered an emotional, impassioned, outraged call for action.
He pounded the table. He shouted. He called out Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and U.S. senators for inaction. His voice caught with emotion.
Kerr’s father, Malcolm, was shot and killed by two gunmen in 1984, and the Warriors’ coach has long been one of the NBA’s most fervent advocates for gun control.
“I’m not going to talk about basketball,” Kerr started his press conference. “Nothing’s happened with our team in the last six hours. We’re going to start the same way tonight. Any basketball questions don’t matter.
“Since we left [pregame] shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here, and a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California, now we have children murdered at school.
“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m so tired. Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough.
“There’s 50 Senators right now who refuse to vote on HR8, which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple years ago. It’s been sitting there for two years. There’s a reason they won’t vote on it: to hold onto power.
“I ask you, Mitch McConnell, all of you Senators who refuse to do anything about the violence, school shootings, supermarket shootings, I ask you: Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers? Because that’s what it looks like. That’s what we do every week.
“So I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, mother or father, sister, brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today?
“We can’t get numb to this. We can’t sit here and just read about it and go, ‘Well, let’s have a moment of silence. Go Dubs. C’mon, Mavs, let’s go.’ That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go play a basketball game.
“Fifty Senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage. Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks, universal background checks? Ninety percent of us. We are being held hostage by 50 Senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want.
“They won’t vote on it because they want to hold onto their own power. It’s pathetic. I’ve had enough.”
Said Kidd: “It’s tough. You know, as coaches or fathers, we have kids. People in this room have kids. Elementary school. You just think about what could take place with any of your family or friends at a school.
“This is on-the-run job training. We’re going to try to play the game. We have no choice. The game is not going to be canceled. But we have to find a way to be pro, find a way to win, and move forward.
“But the news of what’s happening, not just here in Texas but throughout our country, is sad.”
TNT opened its pregame show focused on the shooting with emotional host Ernie Johnson saying “we’ve got an hour show here. We’ve got plenty of time to talk basketball. That is not where we begin after yet another tragedy today …”
NBA Hall of Famer and TNT pregame panelist Shaquille O’Neal backed Kerr’s comments.
“Steve is correct — enough is enough,” O’Neal said.
O’Neal said Uvalde was in the same district with his high school, San Antonio Cole, and that he frequently visited there.
“Places where me and Kenny come from … people get killed every day,” O’Neal said, looking at fellow panelist Kenny Smith. “Something has to be done. You can talk about background checks but there’s a lot that needs to be done. Once you do a background check, let’s not forget about the underground market. Places where me and Kenny are from, anybody can get a weapon.”