This was no regular visit by NBA players to the local community.
The events that led to current Kings Vince Carter, Garrett Temple and the retired Doug Christie to attend "Kings and Queens Rise: A Youth Voice Forum for Healing" were born from the pain of a community still in shock over the shooting death of Stephon Clark, 22, an unarmed African American who was shot and killed by Sacramento police officers in his grandmother's backyard.
Police were responding to a report of someone breaking car windows. Clark had no weapon, only a cellphone, when he was shot.
Protests followed, leading the doors to Golden 1 Center to be blocked for two Kings games, preventing thousands of fans from attending. Those events led to the Kings partnering with Build. Black. Coalition and Black Lives Matter Sacramento in an effort to find ways to invest in the black community—and ways to prevent situations like Clark's death from happening again.
"There's a powerful thing, that this community saved the Kings," Christie said, referring to multiple attempts at relocation before Vivek Ranadive stepped in as majority owner. "For the Kings to now bring it full circle ... I'm so proud of Vivek and the Kings."
The forum was to help with the healing process and give youth a voice, and is the first part of a long-term plan for the Kings to invest into black youth.
Pastor Les Simmons' South Sacramento Christian Church hosted Friday night's forum. He said the partnership between the Kings and community is "still being forged," but Friday was a step in the right direction.
Simmons said the forum was more than a "moment" but a commitment to seeing "equitable change."
"(The Kings) wanted to help sponsor tonight and bring the community together for some healing for dialogue to really lift up the youth voice," Simmons said. "But then there is a multiyear commitment that is developing to invest equity in our communities and continue to lift up the youth voice, as well as make that investment in accountability, particularly policing in our communities. What does that look like? What reform needs to happen that we all can collectively lead this movement and lift up together?"
Ryan McClinton, a community organizer with Sacramento Area Congregations Together, said the partnership with the Kings shows youth that the team "values their lives" beyond just their status as paying customers.
McClinton working with Kings helps facilitate building equity in the black community, with the hope of setting an example for how other sports franchises can invest in their local communities.
"It shouldn’t only happen in Sacramento," McClinton said. "It has to start in Sacramento because we have a chance to lead the nation in this massive change, this champion for change, if you will. But how does it carry over into other states across the country as well?"
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Temple said by the Kings stepping out into the forefront, they've brought awareness to the issues that led many to protest after Clark's death. That the protest was so close to the Kings, literally outside the doors of their workplace, made it resonate even more.
"A protest is to create awareness to an issue and then you have to follow it with action," Temple said. "Whether it be your personal action or action with legislation or action by the people that are in office—the community, the cops. ... The eyes have been on Sacramento, they are on Sacramento right now."
Added Carter: "I think that's what the movement is about: Why? Why does it have to be this way? Let's change that mentality and thought process."
Simmons and McClinton echoed sentiments of how the economic gap in Sacramento communities makes it clear that the Kings' partnership and events like Friday's forum are needed.
McClinton said that's especially important for the NBA, a league that is predominantly black that has many players giving back to the community, even without the assistance of the league. McClinton pointed to much of the community work by Cleveland star LeBron James as an example. James is deeply invested in his home state of Ohio; he has even paid college tuition for students.
"The reality is the league is a black league," McClinton said. "It’s a lot of black players in everything that makes the highlight reels to the styles that come forward. So how are you guys transforming the reality of the lives that they came from and so they aren’t detached? How are you helping them do it in a meaningful way?"
The Kings took a step in doing so with their partnership with Sacramento's community groups, including the city's Black Lives Matter chapter.
"There’s a renaissance going on in different areas of our city and you look around, it’s not reaching certain areas of our city," Simmons said. "That’ll tell you right there how much that investment into our communities is needed."
Carter said no one should think they can't support because they're not in Sacramento. He emphasized that celebrities have a big platform that can bring attention to issues. That attention can lead to change.
"For the athletes and entertainers who feel like they can't be a part of it, your voice is just as important," Carter said.