Despite playing to fewer fans in Sacramento, Dallas Mavericks understand why

Players from the Mavs visiting Sacramento showed empathy for the Stephon Clark demonstrators who attempted to block fans from entering their Tuesday night game

Dallas Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes (r) works for position against Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox. (AP Photo/Steve Yeater)

With the heat on the city of Sacramento, the basketball game between the Kings and the Dallas Mavericks took a backseat to the growing frustrations over the police killing of Stephon Clark.

Demonstrators blocked the entrance to the Golden1 Center prior to the game’s tipoff as a  heated Tuesday evening meeting with the City Council over the incident took place, according to the Sacramento Bee, for the second time in a week. Only about 7,000 people got into the arena, which seats 17,000. Thousands more were unable to enter.

READ MORE: Sacramento Kings players call for accountability in shooting death of Stephon Clark

But Mavericks players took the opportunity to express themselves about the shooting as well.

“The beauty of the game is that we have this platform to speak about these things and to be able to speak about police brutality and citizen-police relationships, disproportionate amount of African-Americans getting killed, stuff like that,” said Mavericks’ small forward Harrison Barnes, the Dallas Morning News reported“I think it’s important that we use that platform and talk about these things. Our hearts and condolences go out to those effected.”

The game started on schedule but the sparse number of attendees was evident. Those who made it into the arena were asked to move from seats high up in the arena, to ones closer to the floor.

READ MORE: Stephon Clark’s brother echoes frustration of Black Sacramento

“If there was nobody here, I’d salute that. It was different. I didn’t know that’s why they weren’t coming in, but like I said, I salute that if it brings attention (to the situation),” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told the Morning News.

“It’s tragic, but it keeps the discussion going,” power forward Dirk Nowitzki added. “It’s something that needs to be addressed and looked at and get to the bottom of what really happened. It’s unfortunate things like this continue to happen. “But people come together and move forward and hopefully things like this won’t happen again.”

Coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavs were reportedly aware the protests would take place. The team was able to enter the area through an underground walkway, and avoid the outside protests. But he also expressed his support to those affected by the killing.

“Condolences to the family of Stephon Clark. It’s difficult to keep seeing this go on and on. I was talking to some of the guys on the other team about the stuff they’re doing here in Sacramento. It’s not easy. These stories can’t become a regular thing. That’s what the tragedy is.”

READ MORE: Black police officer, taunted as “Uncle Tom” during Stephon Clark protest, says the words hurt

Barnes said he supports using the NBA to further important causes.

“If they were doing this somewhere else in the city, would it be garnering the same attention?” he said. “Would it be on the national news that the Sacramento Kings are locking fans out of their stadium.

“Why are they locking fans out,” he continued. “Well, because this young man was killed. And the dialogue keeps going. There’s never an easy way to bring attention to anything. But some things are bigger than basketball.”

The Mavericks beat the Kings 103-97.