The royals might never have even known there was a protest.
Prince William and Kate Middleton arrived at the Cavaliers-Nets matchup minutes before tipoff, entering the Barclays Center in their vehicle through a freight elevator.
While the Star Spangled Banner played in the arena, the royals were escorted through the concrete hallways toward a private dining engagement, and appeared courtside at the start of the third quarter.
“We have Jay Z and Beyonce at a lot of games,” said Deron Williams before the game. “That’s the royal couple of Brooklyn.”
The royals’ visit to Brooklyn, planned months ago, was meant to highlight the NBA’s partnership with the Royal Foundation, the charity organization the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge established in 2009.
Their courtside appearance coincided with a mass protest outside the Barclays Center, where scores of protesters staged a die-in to highlight the death of Eric Garner and a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to not indict NYPD officers involved.
Inside the arena, all eyes were on LeBron James, who showed solidarity with the protestors by wearing a t-shirt bearing the words “I Can’t Breathe” – Garner’s last words.
The royals spent the first half of the game dining with, among others, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and 7-foot-2, Congo-born former NBA star Dikembe Mutombo, whose post-retirement humanitarian efforts have included wildlife conservation.
That was the tie-in for the Royal Foundation, according to Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s executive vice president for social responsibility and player programs.
“This is a unique partnership,” Behrens said. “The Royal Foundation has two great programs that we’re going to work together on. One is the Coach Core program, which will help us grow the game of basketball throughout Great Britain. And the other is United for Wildlife builds on a commitment we’ve had to build awareness of conservation.”
The Nets appeared to collapse as the visiting dignitaries made their way to courtside seats across from the Nets’ bench. After the third quarter, Nets superfans Jay Z and Beyoncé crossed the court to chat with the visitors amid a throng of cameras and applause.