Kenny Smith walked out of the TNT studio on Wednesday evening in solidarity with the NBA players boycotting playoff games due to the shooting of Jacob Blake by police.
Blake was shot by a police officer of the Kenosha Police Department in Wisconsin on Sunday. He is recovering in hospital but it is feared that he may never walk again.
Kenosha is a city 40 miles from Milwaukee where the NBA's Bucks are based. The team was due to play against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday but players boycotted the game. Three more playoff games which were due to be played on Wednesday were also postponed.
"Right now my head is ready to explode like just in the thought of what’s going on," Smith, a former NBA player, said.
"I don’t know if I’m appropriate enough to say it, what the players are feeling and how they’re feeling. I haven’t talked to any of the players.
"Even driving here and getting into the studio, hearing calls and people talking... And for me, I think the biggest thing now, as a black man, as a former player, I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not to be here tonight. And figure out what happens after that."
Host Ernie Johnson said he respected Smith's decision. Former players Shaquille O'Neal and Charles Barkley were also in the studio at the time.
Every word Chris Webber says here should be listened to. pic.twitter.com/L2mKUqEHL1
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) August 26, 2020
Also on TNT's coverage of Wednesday's events, Chris Webber, another former NBA player, spoke emotionally about being black in America.
"We keep hearing 'Vote. Everybody vote' but I'm here to speak for those that are always marginalised, those that live in these neighbourhoods where we preach and tell them to vote and walk away," he said.
"Charles Barkley came to my high school. Just seeing him in the locker room, seeing his hands and his body, that inspired me. You can't be something until you see it.
"I'll tell you, the little kids that have called me, upset. I have a godson who has autism and I just had to explain to him why we aren't playing. I have young nephews who I've had to talk to about death before they've even seen it in a movie.
"If not now, when? If not during a pandemic and countless lives being lost. If not now, when? That’s all I want to hear from the rest of the night when everybody’s pontificating and thinking and soapboxing and all of that, we know nothing is going to change.
"We get it. If Martin Luther King got shot and risked his life, Medgar Evers, and we’ve seen this in all of our heroes constantly taken down. We understand it’s not going to end, but that does not mean young men that you don’t do anything. Don’t listen to these people telling you don’t do anything because it’s not going to end right away. You are starting something for the next generation and the next generation to take over.
"Do you have to be smart? Yes. Do you have to make sure you have a plan? Yes. Do you have to be articulate about that plan? Yes. All of those things, but that’s what you’re going to do. They’re professionals, they know how to be the best of themselves. So I applaud it. I applaud it because it’s the young people, the young people leading the way. And I applaud them."