The NBA has been no stranger to the advancement of civic equality for all people, as far as sports leagues go. That reputation perhaps took a hit when commissioner Adam Silver made comments regarding the NBA’s rule that players stand for the national anthem, but players have been openly supportive after the deaths of Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, and others.
NBA coaches have come forward to have their voices heard, too. Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich seem to be the ones who grab the most headlines, especially when it comes to Donald Trump, but guys like Stan Van Gundy have also used their platform to advance a social agenda.
On Tuesday, the Detroit Pistons coach wrote an article in Time in support of athletes in the WNBA and NFL who made their statement by kneeling during the national anthem.
Honoring America has to mean much, much more than standing at attention for a song (one which, by the way, contains racist language in later verses). One of the most important freedoms that our military has fought for over two-plus centuries is the freedom of speech. When these professional athletes protest during the anthem, they are exercising one of the very freedoms for which our military men and women fought so valiantly, thus honoring our highest values and, in turn, those who have fought for them.
We should never forget that this country was founded by protesters. Our founding fathers declared independence from Great Britain because they were dissatisfied with the laws and policies that they believed abridged their freedoms. Had they taken the stance that many want our professional athletes to take — to just shut up and honor your country no matter what — we would be living in British colonies. Furthermore, as Dr. Dyson reminded our team, protest has nearly always been the catalyst for meaningful change. And it has always made people uncomfortable. This was true of the abolitionists, the women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement, all of which shined a bright and needed light on injustice, demanded that our country live up to its stated ideals and produced our most meaningful change. To be sure, they made people feel uncomfortable along the way, but those were the people who needed to feel uncomfortable. People should never be permitted to feel comfortable while trampling the rights of others.
Van Gundy’s entire piece is well worth the read given his perspective and the time he’s spent with his team talking about social change.
Here’s hoping NBA players and coaches don’t stop trying to have a meaningful conversation with their fans.