The two high-ranking Golden State Warriors employees can never completely relate to what many of their players have experienced.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr and general manager Bob Myers are white. Most of their players are Black. But Myers and Kerr have learned plenty from their players, who have been among the NBA’s most outspoken in recent years about varying racial issues.
“It’s hard for all of us to come to grips with what we’ve put the African American communities through the course of American history. Most people really don’t know,” Kerr, who attended Palisades Charter in Los Angeles and the University of Arizona, said on a conference call this week. “My education excluded so much of that. I would like to think that we can make really a concerted effort to learn more about that to make some strides socially and politically. It’s the only way we’ll have the foundation to do so.”.
The Warriors’ current and former players have all created a strong foundation to address these issues.
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Stephen Curry, David West and Andre Iguodala were among the players to criticize President Donald Trump for his divisive rhetoric toward minorities and for criticizing former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality. It explains why the Warriors had no plans to make the customary White House visit to celebrate their 2017 NBA championship, which prompted Trump to rescind an invitation the team would have rejected, anyway. During the Warriors’ three NBA championship runs (2015, 2017, 2018), West and Iguodala often tweeted out articles about racial injustice and remained the team’s most avid book readers involving these issues.
The players remained intent on backing up their words with actions.
Curry has raised scholarships for military families with ThanksUSA, supported the Alameda County Community Food Bank and hosted an Instagram Live Q&A about COVID-19 with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Kevin Durant, who critiqued Trump for his rhetoric when he was with the Warriors (2016-2019), helped the Bay Area youth with refurbished courts and college scholarships as well as his hometown in Prince George’s Country, Maryland, by funding the Durant Center (a facility that offers local students with academic, financial and social-emotional resources), College Track (funds college scholarships and tutoring) and the Seat Pleasant Rec Center (has donated $60,000 for new basketball courts).
Draymond Green has worked in the past five years with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), which helps collaborate partnerships with law enforcement, schools and inner city youth. Klay Thompson, who critiqued Trump for saying the Bahamas has “some very bad people” after Hurricane Dorian damaged part of his father’s homeland, has a foundation that has supported various charities in the Bahamas, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Portland, Oregon. West, who retired in 2018, has sponsored New Orleans families affected by Hurricane Katrina, has refurbished courts in various African countries (Ghana, Senegal and Gambia) and has overseen The Professional Collegiate League.
After a white police officer killed George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, Curry, Thompson, Damion Lee and Marquese Chriss joined a “Black Lives Matter” protest that Juan Toscano-Anderson organized in Oakland.
“It’s been an awakening for our society. My hope is that everybody decides to engage on a deeper level and on a continuous level,” Myers said on a conference call this week. “I don’t think this gap will be bridged by a panel here or there, although those things help. I think it’s going to require (effort) and take a long time. I hope sports can heal. One of my favorite part of sports is it’s color blind. It’s a meritocracy of sorts. You don’t get judged by how you look. You get judged by how you perform. Unfortunately, our society doesn’t reflect that as much as we would like.”.
Myers received some criticism on social media for those comments. Some quickly pointed out that Kaepernick has remained unsigned for the past three years. Others pointed out that a former boxer (Muhammad Ali) and two former track-and-field athletes (Tommie Smith, John Carlos) received similar backlash for protesting racial inequality. Unintentionally, Myers’ words may have reinforced another point he made.
“One of the best things you can do in life is try. We don’t do a good job of this in society. We don’t often look at things from someone else’s perspective. Most of the decisions we make in life are whatever is best for us we do,” Myers said. “It does two things. It shows me I should be thankful for what I have. It also shows me I should have an awareness that not everyone has been afforded the same opportunities in life. How can we work to even that out?”.
Kerr and his players collaborated before the 2018 mid-term elections with “Rock the Vote,” a non-profit organization aimed to increase voter turnout and voter registration by partnering with various public figures. Since the inception in 2012, the Warriors’ community foundation has given over $12 million to local school districts and non-profits, which have included educational grants and refurbished courts. In recent seasons for their games in Washington, the Warriors toured the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Warriors have made annual trips for pick-up games against inmates at the San Quentin state prison.
“We’ve tried to give our players plenty of freedom and space to speak their minds not only with you guys with the media, but also within our circle and the confines of the organization and the team. That’s especially important right now,” Kerr said. “The most important thing we can really do is really commit to teaching people about the African American experience in this country. I’m not talking about the homogenized one that we all learned in American history in high school. We need to learn the real American history, the one that tells the truth about some of the awfulness to it. We have to be able to come to grips with it before we can do anything about it.”.
Myers, who attended Monte Vista High School in Danville, California, first became aware of his ignorance when he attended UCLA (1994-98). Then he developed friendships with Black teammates and further learned about their different journeys. Since then, he has been determined to further reduce his ignorance.
He has asked Iguodala and West questions about various racial issues. He has probed Green about his upbringing in Saginaw, Michigan. He learned from a Bay Area-based Black reporter on what it was like to attend Oakland Technical High School. Before attending a funeral in south San Francisco for late Warriors great Nate Thurmond four years ago, Myers unexpectedly ran into a former San Quentin inmate and learned more about his past.
Still, Myers and Kerr can never fully comprehend the racism their players have experienced. During these divisive times, showing effort marks the first step toward healing.
“I think you’ve arrived racially in some sense when you walk in a room and you don’t know you’re the only white guy in there. When you get to that point in life, you’re heading in the right direction,” Myers said. “There are barriers that exist. And, unfortunately, we all have to do a better job. But it starts with friendship. It starts with association. It starts with listening.”.
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