Trump has had sullying effect on sports since taking office originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea
The past four years have exposed the worst of 21st-century America to such a degree that sports, generally considered a simple space in a complex society, is a battleground with such august figures as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jack Nicklaus taking sides.
We love baseball, basketball and football. We hate football, basketball and baseball. We fight for equality. We fight against equality. We crave civil debate and we get rock-throwing from inside and outside our national glasshouse.
Is it fair to lay a considerable portion of our consternation -- which is exacerbated by the stressors that come with a global pandemic -- into the ample lap of President Donald Trump?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes it is and national polls, as well as the number of republicans vowing to vote against the party, indicate he has company.
“It’s almost impossible not to get wrapped up in the politics at some level,” Kerr says. “I’ve got plenty of conservative friends and plenty of liberal friends. Growing up in California, it’s a liberal state. But there’s plenty of conservative people. I just believe leadership has to be values-based and character-based. No matter who the person is in charge, his political leaning is almost irrelevant. What’s crucial is values and character.
“And we put a man into the highest office in the land who probably has the lowest character of anybody I’ve ever seen in my life. And I mean that.”
Kerr, joined by Atlanta Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, shared his thoughts in the “Race in America: A Candid Conversation,” Friday night at 8 p.m. on NBC Sports Bay Area and at 9 p.m. on NBC Sports California. The episode is available Saturday on the NBC Sports Bay Area/California YouTube channel.
The discussion was focused largely on two issues, one being the prevalence of Black citizens victimized by police violence -- the most recent example being the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr. this week in Philadelphia -- and the other being the American political landscape.
Kerr and Pierce, like most of America, know of the divisive, incendiary rhetoric from the White House. High profile Black athletes acting or speaking against injustice are targeted for criticism, which is amplified on Fox News. Black Lives Matter -- the phrase, not the group -- is distorted to the point of polarization. Peaceful protests against police brutality and government abuse are met with waves of violence from armored law enforcement.
It’s all visible, often shot on camera phones, for the world to see and be repulsed.
Though fully aware of the role political division plays in the unrest, Pierce, who also chairs the NBA Coaches Association’s committee on racial injustice and reform, is ready to work against the efforts of any individual politician and the obstacles they might create.
“As I’m learning more and more and being educated on politics federally, at the state level and the local level, there’s so many other people that are harmful to our cities and our communities,” Pierce says. “It does become a political issue. And so, for me, ‘Who can I partner with? Who can I work with that’s really focused on things that are helpful to our communities and our cities?’ Whether it’s institutions, whether it’s organizations, whether it’s our organization, how do we help better ourselves to better others?
“Personally, I’m going to spend less time trying to remove, attack or criticize someone and more time focusing on things that I think will provide solutions.”
Both Kerr and Pierce have consulted with Bryan Stevenson, the attorney and law professor who founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a human rights organization in Alabama. He is the author of “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption,” on which the film “Just Mercy” is based, with Stevenson portrayed by actor Michael B. Jordan.
Stevenson has provided guidance that gives perspective to both coaches on our current plight and the fight to achieve a more just society.
“Some of the conversations we’ve had with him (make clear) there’s a greater issue than the individual,” Pierce says. “He uses the term ‘ideologies. And he talks about the ideologies of superiority vs. inferiority that a lot of people have when it comes to race, when it comes to political issues, when it comes to equality.”
That’s where we are today and where we’ve always been, as a country. One side fighting against the inhumanity of slavery, the other side fighting to maintain it. One side instituting Jim Crow laws, the other side subjected to its oppression. One side disproportionately subjected to law enforcement abuses, the other side denying the evidence.
With most of the world praising the courage of Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest racial oppression during the national anthem, Trump and his neighbors in the far-right community, including NFL owners, insist the former 49ers quarterback is an ingrate.
“The way that President Trump has whipped this country into a frenzy and the ripple effect from that, they affect everything that we are talking about,” Kerr says.
No rational argument against that, from either side of the community, as the past few years have pushed us to the point where one’s choice of a presidential candidate is less a difference in politics than a revelation of principles.