Over the past year, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders and his team have had several conversations as it relates to social injustice and current events in America.
Wednesday was another of those days for the Wolves to come together after a violent mob loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington as Congress was affirming the electoral college victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
"We have addressed it as a group because it has to be addressed," Saunders said. "It was disgusting to watch in so many ways and it shows just how far we have to come as a country when it comes to coming together. It's heartbreaking, and our players — we have thoughtful players that we'll have good dialogue as we move forward, but those conversations will stay in house."
Saunders' comments come after players and teams across the NBA responded to events in Washington. The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics released a statement before playing their game Wednesday saying they were doing so "with a heavy heart" after it was announced Kenosha, Wis., police officers wouldn't face charges in the August shooting of Jacob Blake and after seeing how those who stormed the Capitol were treated by law enforcement and Republican Party leaders compared to Black protesters over the summer.
That was a point Saunders underscored Thursday before the Wolves faced Portland.
"My role continues to be to listen and act as an ally, but also be willing to acknowledge that maybe yesterday would have been handled different if other groups of individuals were storming the Capitol," Saunders said. "That's just how unfortunate it is where we are. That's why I say it's a sad state of where we are right now. But I think acknowledging that as a white individual but acknowledging that as a country is something that we can do to move forward and we should do."
Some players, such as D'Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns, took to social media to express their outrage. Since the killing of George Floyd last May, the Wolves have had talks as a team about how best to use their platforms to bring about change. The organization, in conjunction with the Lynx, hosted three voter registration drives in Minneapolis and St. Paul before the election. The Lynx and Wolves also gave employees Election Day off to vote as part of those efforts.
"We don't want to just allow our players to have a voice. We encourage it," Saunders said. "We almost expect it because it's important just in the state we're in right now. A lot of times as you have younger players coming into the league, maybe they have not had a whole lot of exposure to the world of politics or the world of the civil rights movement. But some of the players maybe have been actively involved.
"It's been something to see when you see players having a dialogue."
After Saunders said he was hopeful guard Josh Okogie could play against Portland, the Wolves ruled Okogie out before Thursday's game.
Saunders said they were being cautious about Okogie's return.
"Continuously taking it day by day," Saunders said. "Hamstrings are tricky, and we're responding to how he feels after daily workouts when it comes to our ramp-up situation. So he's doing everything that's asked of him. We're just making sure that we heal properly."