Kyle Korver is currently in his 16th season in the NBA, a career that has spanned five different NBA franchises and hundreds of different teammates. If there’s anyone whose perspective on race has been hugely shaped by a diverse and numerous group of teammates, it’s Korver’s. And yet Korver, currently a member of the Utah Jazz, opened about a how he’s had to overhaul his thought process on race in recent years.
The two incidents Korver — urrently with the Utah Jazz — cited was an incident where an Atlanta Hawks teammate was brutalized by the police and one from earlier this season, when a Jazz fan was banned from the arena for shouting racists remarks at Russell Westbrook during a Jazz home game.
In a piece for The Players’ Tribune, Korver says the incident with Westbrook made him think about his initial reaction to hearing that Thabo Sefolosha, his teammate on the Atlanta Hawks in 2015, had gotten his leg broken during an arrest by members of the NYPD, charges that were later dropped, and how embarrassed he now feels of his initial thought process.
Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was? About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??
Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.
I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.
As the piece continues, Korver talks about how he’s started to think more about the privilege he experiences as a white man, and how he needs to spend more time listening and holding other white men accountable in an effort to change how minorities, athletes or otherwise, are still treated in this country in 2019.
And so, again, banning a guy like Russ’s heckler? To me, that’s the “easy” part. But if we’re really going to make a difference as a league, as a community, and as a country on this issue….. it’s like I said — I just think we need to push ourselves another step further.
First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.
And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.
That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think, if we’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.
Korver’s piece has earned praise from guys like LeBron James, who Korver played with in Cleveland, and his current Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell.
It’s brave of Korver to not only admit how he once thought about race, but also to admit and understand the privilege he carries as a white man playing in a predominantly black sport. The entire piece is worth a read, and here’ to hoping more white athletes speak out as Korver has.