BUENA VISTA LAKE, Florida (AP) – Rick Carlisle of Dallas now starts each interview session by reading from a calendar that highlights something that happened that day in the history of the country’s race. Toronto’s Nick Nurse often wears shirts to practice proclaiming Black Lives Matter. Instead of the pre-training film, Steve Clifford of Orlando showed his team a documentary about the life of John Lewis.
While NBA players are using the restart of the season to request the change, the league coaches are not making them travel that path alone.
The NBA coaches – where most of the players are black and most of the coaches are white – have actively participated in the demand for social changes throughout the league. Requests became a critical point when George Floyd, a black man handcuffed, he died when a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee to his neck for several minutes.
“I think he is just understanding the moment and the movement that is taking place,” said Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce. “That’s what all our coaches do and, as white coaches, they are not fools. I think the beauty of our game is that we train African American men, me and the white coaches. We are around. We know that our league is predominantly African American. So why not? If we ask others to be empathetic, I think we all have to be empathetic. “
Pierce isn’t rebooting the NBA at Walt Disney World – the Hawks aren’t among the 22 teams that still play this season – but he’s been active on regular coaches across the league and calls a committee of coaches in charge of like those in the NBA it can best help the movement for changing society.
It also helped get someone to train the coaches.
Bryan Stevenson is the founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, a partner in the NBA community, and is someone who has spent 30 years seeking social justice. He was scheduled to meet with the NBA coaches for a Zoom call for half an hour a few weeks ago. The call lasted more than three times and an ongoing dialogue was born.
“It was mesmerizing,” Carlisle said of that initial call. “It was an education in itself.”
It is the calendar created by Stevenson’s organization that Carlisle reads every day. The impact of whatever Stevenson said to the coaches that the first night continued to resonate.
“You have to believe things you haven’t seen,” said Stevenson. “You must have hope that we can turn this moment into something more than a moment. I mean, despair is the enemy of justice and injustice prevails where despair persists. And if NBA coaches believe it and if NBA players believe it, then fans can believe it too. “
He is convinced that the coaches believe.
Stevenson has been publicly lauded by almost all of the league’s coaches in the past few weeks for helping to educate them about things they never knew. In a league where a handful of coaches – Steve Kerr of Golden State and Gregg Popovich of San Antonio in particular – aren’t shy about publicly sharing political views, this moment has prompted other coaches to use their own voice as well.
The NBA obtained permission to make the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble” available to all head coaches and assistants this week and several teams – including Magic at Clifford’s request – screened the film. It was also available as a featured movie on the well-kept canal in hotels.
“I am inspired by how this movement still has great resistance, and I think our ability to go there and keep the conversation going with our platforms is important,” said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra. “The next step everyone wants to see is action and lasting and sustainable change in the areas of systemic racism and social inequality.”
Players are at Disney to compete for a championship, although the wider social problems have not diminished since they arrived. Jerami Grant of Denver replied to five questions in an interview last week and all his responses, regardless of topic, revolved around a request for arrests in the killing of Breonna Taylor. Philias Tobias Harris took a similar tactic a few days later, and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers did after the launch of his team on Wednesday. Russell Westbrook of Houston has a clothing line that will display social justice messages and most players will wear jerseys with similar thoughts also printed on the back.
If players take action on the pitch during games, for example on their knees, a person aware of the situation has stated that the coaches have agreed to do the same. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no plans were announced.
“It’s a pivotal moment in the sense that we have the opportunity to do something transformative if we have the courage,” said Popovich. “And as with many other things in today’s world, interest decreases fairly quickly regardless of the topic. … So, the league, the players, the coaches, the staff, everyone is very busy keeping it in the foreground in everyone’s conscience, even if everyone is excited to play. This is a great opportunity. “
At Disney, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is painted on the playground. Stevenson believes that coaches can have the same impact.
As NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sees it, fans will take a cue from looking at their various favorite teams – players and coaches alike. If the NBA is talking about the change in existence and acting accordingly, it believes that fans will apply the same passion to whatever role they can play in the movement.
“We can use the same desire and hope for racial equality and an end to police violence and justice for communities that have been undermined by unhealthy and unsafe practices and policies,” said Stevenson. “It’s a really powerful thing to imagine. And so, if we can achieve it, yes, I absolutely believe it can be a moment of transformation. “
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