Inspired by Carmelo Anthony’s call for action in July in the wake of the shooting deaths of African-American men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota and five police officers by an African-American man in Dallas, DeMarcus Cousins headlined an event promoting police-community relations.
Cousins was joined by Kings teammates Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes and Garrett Temple at Sacramento’s Midtown Bayside Church, where they held a closed-door conversation with a handful of the city’s law enforcement community members and an estimated 150 area high school students. The session was closed to the media, although participants held a press conference about the proceedings afterward.
“We opened up a meeting with the young students, and the players set the tone of what this was about, and it was to have dialogue with the community and talk about some of the recent issues that have been active in the media,” said former Sacramento Sheriff Dwight Pruitt, who also serves as an NBA security representative, via ABC 10.
“We talked about having a better relationship within the community. It’s much more about community engagement, having a relationship with our community and our young people. Quite often, going call to call and not spending that proactive time in the community is what is missing, and they made it clear that they want to engage with us, but it has to be a situation where they can trust us, and with that we have to work in a proactive sense by being engaged in the community, with our pastors, with our community leaders, at their events, with their families, in a positive sense.
“So, that’s in a nutshell what we talked about today, and the young folks and the men and women who spoke were very powerful. They were direct, and they were open, and the message was clear to us.”
The conversation, which included a Q&A session with the students, centered around the obstacles dividing police and the community and included role-playing scenarios involving police procedure, according to reports. “I learned there’s fear in the community — still,” added Sacramento Police Deputy Chief Ken Bernard. “We have a lot of work as a profession to break down those barriers.”
All four Kings players shared personal stories of interactions with police, according to the Sacramento Bee. Cousins cited a traffic stop in which officers drew rifles. Temple shared his familiarity with fellow Baton Rouge native Alton Sterling, who was killed by police this past summer. Gay said he had enough police harassment stories in his hometown of Baltimore to script a season of “The Wire.” And Barnes described being pulled over four times in a month by the same officer during his time on the Lakers.
“We really want to bridge the gap,” said Barnes. “We feel there’s a lack of knowledge on the citizens’ part and on the police officers’ part, which creates fear and which creates these killings across the country that everybody’s seeing. … We are going to be in the communities doing more, teaming up with these officers and really trying to bridge this gap. There’s a huge gap there that needs to be filled, and I think through athletes teaming up with these officers we can help start bridging that gap.”
Sacramento police came under heavy criticism after a mentally ill African-American man, Joseph Mann, was shot 14 times by officers and died in July, so their presence at the Kings Community Coalition event also marked a necessary step toward bridging a divide in the community.
Barnes credited San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick “for taking this stance to open up this door” to social justice by sitting out the national anthem during the NFL season. Many NBA teams have performed less direct demonstrations as a show of unity during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
“But that’s all been done,” said Cousins, according to the Bee. “It’s time for action.”
— Sacramento Kings (@SacramentoKings) November 8, 2016
So, he and his teammates pledged to coordinate more events promoting interaction between police and the community. Cousins attended USA Basketball teammate Carmelo Anthony’s panel discussion in Compton, Calif., and hosted another conversation in his hometown of Mobile, Ala., in September.
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