Empathy is something we would like to believe is at an abundance in society. However, just because we have an affinity for this grand concept doesnt necessarily mean that its importance is acted upon very often. But when youre a National Basketball Association coach, who is also the progeny of a seasoned basketball coach, one would think it would not be a tall task to be empathetic to the plight of your players. Though there is an obvious influx of players from foreign locales, the NBA is still 75 percent Black.
Thus, after a 15-year career roaming the sidelines of this league, high-fiving, yelling at, hugging and congratulating people of African descent, Stan Van Gundy is a prime candidate to speak out on issues pertaining to the mental and physical well-being of black folks in America as a demonstrated ally.
On Monday, Time published an article penned by Van Gundy in which the Detroit Pistons head coach decided to give his take on the current NFL protest started by Colin Kaepernick last year while attacking the absurd notion that says those who protest are somehow disrespecting the flag by doing so.
In the great tradition of the civil rights movement, these athletes are using non-violent, peaceful protest to work toward specific changes they want to see in their communities and their country, wrote Van Gundy. Because of this controversy, people are forgetting what these protestors are trying to change. Its important for us to talk about it every day until it resonates, until change happens. Their demands are important, and today, I am adding my voice in support.
What is it that they want? Simply and succinctly: equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynchings and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color, we have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem, that dishonors our country. If we truly want to honor our country, this must change. As Dr. Dyson said to our staff, We just want you to be true to your words.
In addition to eloquently scribing this plea for sanity, Van Gundys piece is well-researched, specifically mentioning The Players Coalition of 40 NFL players led by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins, as well as a list of state and federal institutions that have been used to disproportionately oppress people of color.
* Ameliorating harsh sentencing guidelines and ending mandatory minimum sentences.
* Enacting clean slate laws
* Eliminating cash bail
* Reforming juvenile justice
* Ending police brutality and racial bias in police departments
He concluded with this:
I stand with these athletes in support of both these causes and their patriotism. I hope others will join me in supporting them. These athletes could take the easy route and not placed their livelihoods at risk by standing up for what they believe in. Theyve put in their hard work. They could accept their paychecks and live lives of luxury. Instead, they are risking their jobs to speak up for those who have no voice. They are working to make America live up to its stated ideals. We should all join them in ensuring their collective voice is heard.
Van Gundy joins San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr as NBA coaches who have spoken out in favor of allowing NFL players to protest. Their efforts are indeed appreciated by this writer. Plainly put, black folks need all the sponsors we can muster.