By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The NBA has long been a league that supports social justice and encourages voices from within its league to call for reform in their communities and throughout society.
Many players like Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Damian Lillard and others have all made efforts to not just give back to their respective communities, but have also spoken out about the racism and injustices society portrays African-Americans, and more specifically, African-American males.
Utah Jazz forward Kyle Korver has stood out as of late as the latest NBA figure to speak out against racism in a letter he wrote for the Players Tribune. Korver’s written piece was full of impact immediately in part because it stated some hard truths, but in larger part because it was coming from a white, privileged man that understands the unjust issues his Black colleagues go through daily.
More white people need to understand what Black men go through on a daily basis and actively join the movement to get the change we as a country really want and need to see.
Every third Monday in January, we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and celebrate his courage for being one of iconic leaders of the civil rights movement and using the movement to create change in America. Within the civil rights movement, we always talk about the marches and how Blacks came together to fight for a common cause. But we do not often talk about how Dr. King called for a white people movement to join forces with civil rights leaders and protesters in an attempt to strengthen the movement’s unity, and it ultimately became a success.
One of those white protesters was an Episcopalian preacher from Massachusetts named Jonathan Daniels. Dr. King’s call to Selma, Alabama led Daniels to protest and participate in the significant Selma march to Montgomery while staying in the state to continue the efforts King called for.
Daniels said, “I could not stand by in benevolent dispassion any longer without compromising everything I know and love and value. The imperative was too clear, the stakes too high, my own identity was called too nakedly into question…. I had been blinded by what I saw here (and elsewhere), and the road to Damascus led, for me, back here.” He ended up dying in parts to supporting the movement, but he risked his life for the greater cause of equality for all of mankind.
Korver is basically following in Daniels’ footsteps by inserting his voice in alignment with the activism movements across the NBA and beyond. He highlighted very important points that not many white people are comfortable addressing within his letter, discussing that equality in America does not apply to minorities, stated that even though he as a white man may not feel guilty for the sins of our forefathers, he and others should feel responsible for accepting those actions, accept that responsibility and apply that responsibility to not just talk about change, but work to make change a reality. Not to mention within that work for change, to support and include different movement groups created to fight for the common cause of equality.
Dr. King once said, “The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”
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As Korver wrote in the Players Tribune, after observing a series of incidents burdened by racism — his teammate Thabo Sefolosha breaking his leg during an unlawful arrest in New York City, Russell Westbrook being racially slurred by a white Utah Jazz fan and hearing his teammates and even some of his minority friends constantly complaining/reminding him of their racial experiences throughout the NBA and more specifically in Utah — Korver realized that staying silent while his Black teammates experience racism on a consistent basis is wrong and he wants to use his platform to create change.
Dr. Andrew MacIntosh, member of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) and the Association for Applied Sport Psychology, recently wrote an article in the Journal of Sport Psychology in Action, and he discussed how white people feel that they need to attack and defend their privilege, and stressed the importance of white males/athletes with power and privilege understanding the concept of privilege and where it comes from when using their platforms to combat racism/racial acts.
“Privilege does not mean that we do not defend their work/dismiss their hard work, but it makes your path to success easier in life,” he said. “It is important to recognize and take responsibility to help those that are not as privileged.”
Korver’s maturity and progression as a privileged white man in America to stand up for his Black colleagues/teammates is needed more than ever. The country needs more white men like Korver, professional athletes or not, to join the movement in support of the true social justice initiatives that are taking place.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR