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Matt Barnes calls on community to ‘March for Action!’

Former Kings player organizes rally in honor of Stephon Clark

Former NBA player Matt Barnes was answering emails while his twin 9-year-old sons, Carter and Isaiah, were playing with their iPads at home in Los Angeles last week when they heard Barnes’ hometown, Sacramento, California, mentioned on TV. Barnes and his boys learned from a news report that 22-year-old Stephon Clark was gunned down by two Sacramento police officers on March 18 in his grandparents’ backyard after his cellular phone was mistaken for a gun.

Barnes had the tough job of talking to his inquisitive sons about latest police shooting of a fellow African-American.

“One of my sons, Carter, said, ‘Daddy, they shot a boy 20 times for having a cellphone in his hand,’ ” Barnes told The Undefeated on Friday. “And that is where it really resonated with me. He’s only 9, but that is how fast he picked up on it. I kind of left it right there because I didn’t want to start telling them about something I didn’t know too much about.

“I watched more about it. I did more research on it. There were some suspected break-ins and some cops were trying to talk to him with a helicopter on him and he ran into his grandmother’s backyard and he got shot [at] 20 times. It really resonated when my sons asked about him being shot [at] 20 times with a cellphone in his hand. And I’m from Sacramento and all of it kicked in overwhelming.”

As soon as Barnes got the tragic news, he reached out to his Sacramento connections and on social media hoping to contact the Clark family. It didn’t take long for Barnes to get on the phone with Clark’s grieving mother, very emotional grandmother and brother, Stevante, to offer financial and emotional support. The Clark family reached out to Barnes, who made strong financial contributions to help pay for what was needed for the funeral and repast.

Barnes attended the funeral, which included about 400 mourners, including national civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, on Thursday.

“Through GoFundMe, they raised a substantial amount of money. So, I didn’t pay for the funeral,” Barnes said. “But I offered and I helped with the repast, getting family out there, getting family set up with a hotel, buying all the kids clothes for the funeral and repast.”

Barnes has also played a strong role in helping plan a rally in Clark’s honor called “March for Action!” at Cesar Chavez Plaza in Sacramento on Saturday.

Barnes won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and also has played for the Sacramento Kings. The 15-year NBA veteran said he talked to Kings veterans Vince Carter, Zach Randolph and Garrett Temple and to some of his old Warriors teammates about attending the rally. The Warriors and Kings play on Saturday night at Golden 1 Center, where protests over Clark’s death kept thousands of fans from attending two Kings games over the past week.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after practice on Friday that he planned to speak to his players about the possibility of them attending the rally. Barnes said he has also invited former Kings stars Chris Webber and Bobby Jackson, former baseball stars from Sacramento Derrek Lee and Greg Vaughn, and other “celebrities with platforms who can speak on things.”

“I’m hoping for some unity at the rally to bring us together more peacefully,” said Barnes, who plans to bring his sons to the rally. “Let’s not lose focus. Obviously, we lost Stephon Clark. But you got two young boys that are going to grow up without a father. Let’s start a scholarship program for those kids to make sure they go to college. Another thing is obviously put pressure on the [district attorney] and the [local media] — and, obviously, the attorney general is involved now — to prosecute these cops. Plain and simple.

“Twenty shots is a slaughter. People don’t even get shot 20 times in the video game Call of Duty. Twenty shots [at] a 22-year-old boy is ridiculous. You have to have some accountability. They are not going to be able to sweep this under the rug now, but they have myself and other celebrities behind this. We’ve got to see this stopping. The press secretary said this was an isolated situation in Sacramento. That couldn’t be further from the truth. This is a nationwide situation that needs to be addressed. People need to be held accountable.”

Barnes’ family moved from San Jose to Sacramento during his youth, and he was a football and basketball star at Del Campo High School just outside of the state’s capital. The 38-year-old is quite familiar with the historically black Oak Cliff neighborhood where Clark was gunned down. Barnes said he used to play pickup ball at gyms at Sacramento High School and at the Oak Park Salvation Army.

Barnes said Stevante Clark told him that it was important that the rally touch not only on his brother’s death by way of the local cops but also black-on-black crime in Sacramento. Barnes said he flew a Sacramento man, whom he would not name but said is involved with the “street part of things,” to Los Angeles this week to visit with him about the issues. Barnes also said Stevante Clark hopes that two rival Sacramento rappers will show unity during the rally as well.

While Barnes said the focus of the rally is to “hold the cops accountable” for the killing of Clark, the “bigger issue is the black-on-black crime.”

“Me and [Clark’s] brother spoke, and I asked him, ‘How do you want to honor your brother?’ ” Barnes said. “He had a few different ideas. One idea he said, which really resonated with me, was, ‘Even though these cops killed my brother, the biggest thing is we are killing each other here, this black-on-black crime …’

“I started doing my research because the Sacramento streets are really hot right now. I found out there is a lot of back history with the situation. I have taken it upon myself to talk to some of the heads, guys who are kind of running things in Oak Park. I sat down with one of them and asked, ‘What is it going to take to have some peace out there?’ We sat down for about three hours the other night and talked about different ideas.”

Once the rally is over, Barnes said, he also hopes to sit down with some of the influential people and gang leaders in Sacramento to find a resolution to end gun violence. Barnes described the whole situation as “scary” with a desperate need for an outlet for the youth.

“After we run this rally tomorrow to bring attention and awareness and hold these cops accountable, I’m really going to get on the ground in Sacramento and start meeting with these gang leaders to see if we can come to a common ground,” Barnes said. “Everything I’ve heard basically is that they need outlets. You want them to stop doing something that is all they know. You got to think. They all got families. Where are they going to get work from?

“Stevante told me the kind of stuff they want in their neighborhoods. It will take some funding and some help. That is really going to be my goal after we get these cops held accountable for these killings. But the bigger goal is to stop killing each other.”

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.