The eyes of the world are on police brutality and institutional racism in the United States.
Protests have erupted around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody last Monday, with demonstrators taking to the streets across the country and all over the globe ever since.
Outspoken Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Friday that the hard work is just beginning.
“I think that that’s our job, really, is to make sure that it’s not just a press conference and a Zoom call, and then back to normal business,” Kerr said on NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Race In America: A Candid Conversation.” “I think what David (West) was talking about earlier (on the panel) was working with the grassroots organizations. I think being committed — if you’re a corporation, taking on that commitment of building a relationship with these grassroots organizations.
“Not just, ‘Hey, here’s a check for [$5,000], we’re proud of you.’ Build a relationship with the grassroots organizations, build a relationship with city government and continue this work. That’s the whole key, and that’s what I’m going to try to do. That’s what the (NBA) coaches association is doing. We’re trying to build lasting relationships so that the work can continue, even beyond the emotion of the aftermath of something like this.”
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Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died last Monday after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer who has since been fired, pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was arrested a week ago, and he has been charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three officers at the scene were arrested this week and charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd’s death occurred within months of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman, and Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old African American man, also dying. Louisville police fatally shot Taylor in her home, while two white men allegedly followed and murdered Arbery as he jogged in his Georgia neighborhood.
The NBA has the highest percentage of African American players of any of the four “major” professional sports in the United States, and it’s also the closest to returning since the leagues paused their seasons in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. The NBA Players Association approved the league’s plan to return to the court Friday, agreeing to resume the season beginning in late July at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex with a 22-team format.
Former Warriors big man David West doesn’t think the NBA season resuming to the court will stop players from speaking out.
“I think [commissioner Adam Silver] gives guys the space and the room to be people,” West said Friday. “I would expect him to be, or the NBA to be in that same vein. I don’t think they’re gonna try to restrict guys. I think they’ll talk it through with guys — a lot of guys are flustered. They don’t know what to say. They know what they feel, they know what they’re seeing is not right, but they don’t know what to say. The NBA does a good job of helping guys with their message, so I don’t think that there’s gonna be some restriction.
“I think that players, as they are compelled, will continue to lend their voice because … [the] grassroots organizations have to do the work, the elected officials have to do the work. We have to do our part in terms of being citizens, but I just think that the players are too in-tune to just turn it off and go back to playing basketball. I think guys want to be a part of the narrative in terms of changing this society and pointing it in a different direction.”
Protests will continue before the NBA season tips off again, and Kerr is encouraged by those who are leading the way on the ground. When Kerr looks at demonstrations, he sees a young, diverse coalition making their voices heard.
That gives him hope for the days ahead.
“I have great faith in the younger generation that’s coming up behind us,” Kerr said. “David mentioned this: They’re more connected than any generation before them (because of social media). They’re also more diverse. Just naturally, the demographics in this country are changing dramatically. What I’ve seen in my kids’ lives, hearing their stories, watching the protests and seeing the diversity that’s involved in these protests, I think the young generation is just … looking at the older generation and they know that we’re full of you know what.
“They just do. I mean, how could you not, right? And I think they want a different future, and I think they’re gonna get it. I believe in the way they’ve educated themselves, how tolerant they are, how different they’ve been raised compared to us 30, 40 years ago. So, I have great faith in the young generation and in the coming decades, I think they’re gonna get a lot more things done than we’ve ever been able to do.”