Moe Harkless, like most of us, has felt like he’s just been along for the ride over the past few months. His season, which started in L.A. and ended in New York, came to an unexpected end in March with the sudden postponement of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision by the league that the Knicks would be among the eight teams left out of the restart.
As such, Harkless has spent the past four months back at his home in Los Angeles trying to fill the time and battling the wide range of emotions that stem from not just being in isolation, but watching what has been unfolding around the country.
“During this time of quarantine a lot of other stuff is going on socially here and around the world, and that kinda had a big impact on how I’ve been feeling too,” Harkless told Dime. “So I guess that’s the best way to describe it is it’s a ride. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions. You kinda go through stages of not really knowing what to do or how to react or handle these things, but you just gotta keep going and figuring it out as you go.”
That ride has led Harkless to do more introspection and figure out ways to best use his platform in this moment. It’s a question many athletes have been asking of themselves recently, as it’s impossible to ignore the Black Lives Matter protests sweeping the nation in what one can’t help but hope is a tipping point in the battle against racial inequality and systemic oppression in the United States. It’s a question that led to what Harkless calls a “really good” conversation within the NBA Players Association, as the organization held calls to talk through how best to proceed with the restart while still keeping momentum behind the movement.
Harkless sees the league’s restart as a positive for how players can have an impact, as players use the platform of national TV broadcasts and postgame press conferences to continue calling attention to the need to continue fighting for social justice and ending systemic racism and police brutality. While he’s not in Orlando, he’s in group chats with players from around the league, and a frequent topic is what they can do and how they can have an impact in their communities.
Ultimately, Harkless decided a place to start was turning his website into a hub of resources for people looking for ways to help the Black community. His team redesigned the site to simply be a home page with redirect links to online directories for Black-owned businesses, Black-owned restaurants in L.A. and New York that do takeout, Black mental health resources, how to register to vote, petitions to sign, and causes that welcome donations, and more.
“I guess I was talking it over with my team and we were trying to figure out the best way to kind of do things, and one easy — and we were able to get it done pretty quick — was just to create a hub for all different types of resources,” Harkless said. “With their help, we were able to find different resources and we decided to create somewhere that can point you in the right direction. We just turned my website into, like, anyone that goes to my website is just going to see all these different things they can check out. Like, [Black-owned] businesses and restaurants, anything you can look for I tried to find as many resources as possible and put them all in one place. That was pretty much the intention behind it, cause it was something that I can do to help people and being that I have a platform I can share it with as many people as possible.”
It’s the latest step for Harkless in embracing his voice and platform. In this moment, he says he’s learned how important it is for him and others to ensure that people know they are behind them and support them, and he wants to make sure he does what he can to not just use his voice, but amplify others that are driving the movement. A constant question posed on social media is “What can I do?” as not everyone is able to protest, and Harkless’ website offers a number of answers to that question, bringing links to a number of resources into one place.
For someone who is quiet by nature, Harkless has challenged himself in recent years to be more vocal about his passions an interests, and sharing more about himself with fans. It’s part of recognizing the platform he has and the opportunities that presents off the court — like hosting Wine Wednesday for Uninterrupted during quarantine — and in return he’s found it to be a big part of his personal growth as well.
“I think for me personally, the first step was being OK stepping out of my comfort zone and sharing things that I’m interested in with everyone,” Harkless said. “I kind of pushed a little bit the past couple years to do that more because of the things I was interested in, and it’s been helpful. Being more open about it has brought more resources and more avenues of learning for things that I’m interested about, too. It’s definitely been a step out of my comfort zone, but I’ve been enjoying the process of sharing more about me with people and being able to grow as well.”
Art and wine are at the top of the list of Harkless’ interests off the court, which he sees linked by how everyone’s interpretation of both is wholly unique. His own love of art began as a kid in art class, but was cemented when he began taking cartooning classes in high school, which is why his personal collection is filled with “a lot of cartoony, Pop Art stuff,” like the KAWS figures in the above picture. As he’s grown older, he’s gained an appreciation for art of all kinds, namely modern art, noting that he’s been lucky to be in three great art towns in his last three NBA stops with Portland, L.A. and New York.
When he moved to New York, he chose a spot in Chelsea, a neighborhood filled with galleries, to immerse himself in art culture. Even though that time was cut short due to the sudden ending to the season, it only further fueled his passion for art and connected him further to that world. Art is the ultimate form of expression and is capable of capturing moments in time, and Harkless is quick to highlight a number of artists whose works he feels are especially pertinent to the movement happening in the United States.
“You look at artists like Cleon Peterson, his art is really socially relevant to what’s going on now,” Harkless says. “Nina Chanel Abney is another one, she’s always been that way, and especially now. If you look at her older works, they’re pretty much all about, like, black and white and it’s pretty crazy now. I know Maya Hayuk was doing something a couple weeks ago where she was making signs for protestors in New York and giving them out for free, and that was pretty cool. Cause these are like, really well known artists, and they’re doing stuff like this and giving back to the community. I think the people who pay attention really care about that.”
The same goes for athletes, as those communities who feel represented by an athlete care about what they say and do off the court. Athletes can use their platform to tell the stories of those communities to people that would otherwise remain oblivious to them, and draw attention to causes that are far too often ignored. It’s why that journey to finding ones voice is so important for Harkless, because it not only allows him to share things about himself with the world, but to amplify others in the process.