Ahead of the NBA’s game schedule Friday night, coaches, players and the NBPA shared thoughts and statements about the death of Tire Nichols, a 29-year-old black man who was brutally beaten by five Memphis Police Department officers while he was handcuffed at the beginning of January. . Footage of the beating, which was captured by the officers’ body cameras as well as a street surveillance camera, was released to the public Friday night.
The incident followed a Jan. 7 traffic stop in Memphis, and Nichols, who had been hospitalized since the beating, died Jan. 10 as a result of his injuries, officials said. The five officers, who are black, were fired on Jan. 20 and charged with multiple felonies, including second-degree murder, on Jan. 26.
The NBPA released the following statement on Nichols’ death:
“Our players mourn the loss of Tyre Nichols and extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to the Nichols family during this difficult time. Our hearts go out to the entire Memphis community as they process and deal with this terrible tragedy, and we stand by the lawful arrest of all officers involved. Such aggressive policing and excessive force illustrates the continued need for accountability in the justice system. We will continue to monitor the investigation and legal proceedings in pursuit of justice for Tyre and his family.”
The videos were released to the public shortly before the start of the Memphis Grizzlies-Minnesota Timberwolves game in Minneapolis, and Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins spoke about the incident before his team took the court.
“Our team understands that our city is hurting, Nichols and [his mother RowVaughn] The Wells family is hurting right now, the senseless loss of life of Tyre Nichols has really hit us hard.” Jenkins said. “It’s been tough being on the road and not being at home, I wish I could reach out my arms through this camera right now to the family. They’re going through a lot. I watched the interview with the family today and heard Mrs. Wells speak with so much strength, positivity and love was powerful. It evoked many emotions, I cried.”
Following the release of the video, two Shelby County deputies were also relieved of duty for their involvement in Nichols’ arrest. In addition to second-degree murder charges, the five former police officers also face charges of aggravated assault, aggravated kidnapping, official misconduct and official oppression.
Former NBPA president Phoenix Suns point guard Chris Paul chimed in Twitter to share his thoughts on the matter, saying, “Change is needed at all levels and we must all do our part. We cannot lose our humanity as a community. To the Nichols family and the Memphis community, my heart goes out to you tonight.”
Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who had not yet seen the video before his team’s game, said the incident sounded “horrific” and that the Heat issued a statement says in part: “Our hearts are broken, once again, with the killing of Tyre Nichols: A son, a brother, a father and a friend…While we are encouraged by the dual efforts of the Memphis Police Chief and the District Attorney’s office to take swift action, this tragic case underscores that holding accountable those who abuse their power is the first step to ending abuse of power.”
Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, “I don’t know if we have anything planned yet as a team. We’ve all been following the news and it’s horrible and disgusting. Really tough, tough thing to watch, you know, when the video came out. So we will discuss it internally.”