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Opposition to President Donald Trump grew this weekend, and the NBA was not silent as it happened. While the league made a statement Saturday to show concern and explain its efforts for employees affected by the executive order that blocks travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries (including from legal U.S. residents), various players, coaches, and basketball figures spoke out against the act on social media. The outcry has only grown since. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr made a clear statement against Trump’s fearmongering after his team’s latest win on Sunday, and Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry spoke for many on Monday when he repeatedly called the ban “bulls—.”
Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy, the first NBA coach to speak out against Trump after his election, joined the chorus before Monday night’s game against the Boston Celtics. His comments began with a question about Van Gundy’s willingness to encourage his players to speak out on political topics and snowballed from there:
Van Gundy doesn’t match Lowry’s directness, but his words land nonetheless. The comments on the discriminatory and unconstitutional natures of Trump’s executive order echo plenty of others, but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful. Presenting a unified front against injustice usually accomplishes more than identifying it at all.
His encouragement of the Pistons to speak out is just as important. The NBA’s cult of the coach often goes overboard and confers respect on figures who haven’t earned it. But Van Gundy has come by that respect honestly — he’s a forthcoming guy who criticizes his team but doesn’t grandstand. Like Kerr, he’s someone people listen to. The fact that SVG hasn’t tempered his criticism of Trump in meaningless deference to the presidency shows that speaking out is an acceptable position. Van Gundy isn’t only telling players it’s OK to be vocal — he’s showing them how to do it.
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