San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich receives and deserves tremendous credit for his willingness to speak out about the social and cultural issues that have sparked athlete protests across most of the major American sports.
He isn’t alone among his NBA colleagues in speaking out. Steve Kerr has also been a vocal supporter of players like Colin Kaepernick and a vehement critic of Donald Trump, whose statements and ideas about a variety of issues Kerr has rebuked.
With somewhat lesser fanfare, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy likewise never hesitates to speak his mind. His scorched-earth rant against Trump after last year’s election was a powerful bit of righteous indignation. More recently, Van Gundy published an eloquent piece on player protests for Time that was packed with scholarly evidence to support his various points about racial inequality in America.
What is it that they want? Simply and succinctly: equality. Equal rights. Equal justice. Equal treatment by police and others in authority. Equal opportunity. The second sentence of the Declaration of Independence starts with, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” In over two centuries, from slavery to segregation to lynchings and police brutality to the mass incarceration of people of color, we have not even come close to that ideal. It is our systemic racial inequality, not athletes kneeling during the national anthem, that dishonors our country. If we truly want to honor our country, this must change. As Dr. Dyson said to our staff, “We just want you to be true to your words.”
Van Gundy closed his piece by itemizing a list of the specific legislative changes the NFL’s Players Coalition is advocating for, which includes ending mandatory minimum prison sentences, enacting clean slate laws, reducing cash bonds, juvenile justice reform, and better training and oversight of police officers. He hopes that others support those who are fighting for equality, writing “They are working to make America live up to its stated ideals. We should all join them in ensuring their collective voice is heard.”