In October of 1971, the Indiana Pacers were interested in acquiring Baltimore Bullets guard Earl Monroe. As anyone with a basic understanding of hoops history can tell you, that never came to fruition. In his new book “Earl The Pearl: My Story,” Monroe explains his decision for spurning the Pacers after visiting Indianapolis and meeting with head coach Bobby “Slick” Richard.
So I went to the game and the Pacers won. Then, after the game, I went back to meet the Pacers’ players in the locker room. I liked them, too. But then, after they had showered and dressed, all the black players reached up over their lockers and starting bringing guns down. I was shocked to see this and asked, “Why do you guys have guns?”
“They got Ku Klux Klan everywhere around here outside Indianapolis and in the city, too,” one of the players said. “So we got guns to protect ourselves.”
That did it, just took me and that situation to another level. That’s when I knew for certain that Indianapolis wasn’t the place for me. Obviously I hadn’t thought about the KKK being such a presence out in Indianapolis, and now that I knew they were, it was a deal breaker. I had already been through that scenario down in Virginia and in North Carolina when I was at Winston-Salem, and I wasn’t about to put myself in that situation again. The next day I thanked everybody. Slick said management was trying to work out a deal with Larry because they wanted to sign me, and I said I would speak to Larry and he would get back to them. Then they took me to the airport and I flew back to Philadelphia and went home.
David Stern would have suspended that entire locker room for the season if that happened today, but the Pacers had different reasons for carrying glocks into the locker room than Gilbert Arenas did. Back then, the white supremacist movement was still going strong and Indiana was prime ground for the Klu Klux Klan. Ultimately, it worked out for Monroe, who was traded farther north to New York where he won the Knicks most recent NBA championship alongside the elegantly tailored Walt Frazier.