Few trials have captivated a nation and divided people more so than the one of Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse shot three people, killing two of them, in Kenosha, Wisconsin last year. The 18-year-old testified that he had acted in self-defense and was acquitted of all charges on Friday.
Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers has never shied away from discussing important political issues in the past and this situation was certainly no different.
“I felt it was a 1960′s trial from the time it started,” Rivers said Saturday, via the Philadelphia Inquirer. “You know, it’s unfortunate. Our justice system is flawed. We keep being disappointed and keep having surprises, but nothing changes, and it’s sad.”
Rittenhouse had traveled from Illinois to Wisconsin during an evening of protests that were centered on the shooting of Jacob Blake by a Kenosha police officer. Blake had been another example of a black man being shot by a white police officer and protestors had taken to the streets to express their anger at the justice system in the United States.
Rittenhouse claimed he made the trip to Kenosha to protect property that was being damaged by some angry protestors. He had a machine gun strapped to his chest throughout the protests and used it when he feared he would be a target.
“But that was a 1960s trial from the time it started,” Rivers said, “and you could feel it and you could see it and everyone knew. I really think that’s why there wasn’t as much of an outcry as you thought, because the fix was in. And you felt that way.
“Like I said before, it would be interesting if a black kid had been walking down the middle of the street with a machine gun. I do agree with one thing: there wouldn’t have been a trial.”
The makeup of the jury was overwhelmingly white, which struck a chord with a number of people, including Rivers. It remains to be seen what the full fallout of the verdict will be, but numerous players and coaches across the NBA have already started to speak out about their disappointment with the verdict and the justice system overall.
“Where in the ‘60s, there wasn’t even a report about these types of trials,” Rivers said. “I said ‘Mississippi Burning was released  years after the trial.’ I said now, ‘It’s right [now out] front. It has to be some good.’ I don’t know what it is, though.”
Rivers even brought up Muhammed Aziz and Khalil Islam, who had each spent more than 20 years in prison for the murder of civil rights leader Malcolm X. The two black men had both been convicted, but were finally exonerated on Thursday once it was discovered that the FBI, prosecutors and the New York Police Department withheld key evidence that would have proven their innocence at the time of the trial.
“The reason they were in jail was because the FBI and New York Police Department clearly falsified documents,” Rivers said. “So, they went to jail unjustly. The one guy died in jail and the one guy was let out, and the next day is the Rittenhouse [verdict].
“These guys spent [more than 20 years] in jail and they got an apology. The one guy never heard it, because he’s dead. Can you imagine?”