The NBA has just played its first few preseason games this season, and already the volume is getting turned up on their political engagement in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest. Some athletes are discovering muscles they didn’t know their celebrity had, but others like David West and Andre Iguodala have been concerned about systemic racism for a long time.
Both Iguodala and West prefer to keep their engagement behind the scenes, but Iguodala has been emboldened by the newfound political strength of NBA players to say perhaps the most intelligent thing we’ve ever heard an athlete say about police violence.
“The police are definitely needed, (but) at the end of the day it’s just holding them accountable,” Iguodala, a member of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee, told USA TODAY Sports recently. “You hold athletes accountable, right? Whenever we screw up, it’s headline news – ‘how did this guy mess up?’ We’re almost looked at as God-like figures, like we shouldn’t screw up, when we’re actually human beings. They’re looked at as God-like figures as well, but when they do wrong, it’s almost like they didn’t do it. We’re held in the same ideology, but we’re held to different standards.”
Iggy has long been praised for being one of the smartest players in the NBA, and it’s not just because of his genius defensively. He’ll be participating in some of the neighborhood events that the NBA is encouraging teams to do across the country this year, leveraging their celebrity to bring aggrieved community members face to face with police to humanize both sides of the conflict so that people of color aren’t simply viewed as enemy combatants.
Iguodala, like so many other athletes, has misgivings about how effective a protest of the national anthem really would be in affecting change, and he’s right that his energy is better served being out in the community, rather than in front of the cameras. Then again, we might never be having these conversations if Kaepernick hadn’t put all our eyes on the athletes during the national anthem.
(Via USA TODAY)