The third Monday in January is always one that requires a tiny bit of introspection, as it’s traditionally Martin Luther King Day. It’s always important to take stock of progress that America has or hasn’t made as a nation on that day.
The NBA traditionally holds a slate of games on MLK day for two reasons: It keeps Dr. King in the national consciousness, and it allows fans of all ages to see NBA games all day long. For instance, the NBA had nationally televised games starting at 12:30 p.m. on Monday and continuing on through the night.
One man participating in that early game was Stan Van Gundy, the head coach of the Detroit Pistons. Van Gundy, never short of opinions on the state of the NBA or the nation, spoke to The Undefeated as a part on an MLK-day coach summit on the state of race relations in this country.
Sadly, though, I think the 50th anniversary of his death finds us going backwards on the issue of racial equality. The Voting Rights Act has been largely dismantled. Men of color, and even boys of color, face systemic inequality in the justice system, and we used the war on drugs to lock up a generation of black men. Affirmative action is being torn down. Police are killing men like a modern-day Bull Connor, and economic equality is headed in the wrong direction.
Marches like Charlottesville are disturbing. It used to be that the KKK wore hoods, embarrassed to reveal their identity. Now people with racist beliefs proudly march in the open and are not even repudiated by our president. So yes, we honor Dr. King and all that he sacrificed and all that he accomplished. But if we truly want to honor him, we must get back out and fight like he did against the now-resurgent voices of racial injustice, discrimination and hate. I think 25 years ago Dr. King might have been happy to see some progress. My guess is today he would be in tears over where we are headed.