SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz Guard Kyle Korver has written an essay found on the online magazine The Players’ Tribune about racism in America, the verbal altercation between a Jazz fan and Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, and he’s asking what more can be done to stop it.
Korver said that the events that happened at the Vivint Smart Home Arena between a fan and Westbrook brought back a lot of old questions for him and struck a nerve with the team, many of which have experienced similar things.
The next day in a closed-door meeting with Jazz president Steve Starks, Korver said teammates shared some of those stories of their experiences similar to what had happened with Westbrook the night before. One teammate told them that his mother had called, worried about his safety that night in Salt Lake.
During the course of that meeting, Korver said it brought back memories of when teammate Thabo Sefolosha’s leg was broken during his arrest outside a club in New York City. He was later found not guilty on all charges, but Korver said his first thought after he heard about his teammate’s arrest?
“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.”
These were the thoughts Korver was having throughout the meeting. During those same meetings, teammates talked about the harassment they felt on the court that went beyond acceptable heckling.
“Everyone was upset.” Korver writes. “I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion.
“Guys were just sick and tired of it all.”
By the end of the meeting, Korver wrote that he felt the actions that they took as a team and the Jazz organization as a whole was a step in the right direction, but, he wrote, “I don’t think anyone felt satisfied.”
Korver goes on to say that whether he likes it or not the elephant in the room is that he looks more like the fans in the crowd at an average NBA game than the players because of the color of his skin, “and I’m beginning to understand how that means something.”
“No matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting into it,” Korver continued.
“In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known.
“But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.”
That realization led Korver to ask the question about what that means and what it means that he should do.
“How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?”
“…I don’t think I have all the answers yet — but here are the ones that are starting to ring most true:
I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.
I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.
I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental — as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.
I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way — in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.
But maybe more than anything?
I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable.
We all have to hold each other accountable.
And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.”
Other athletes are responding on Twitter with their praise for the piece,
This is amazing!! I’m honored to have you as my teammate and my brother!! Folks please read and inform yourselves 💯🙏🏾 https://t.co/VLdX5dJWRq
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) April 8, 2019
— Malcolm Jenkins (@MalcolmJenkins) April 8, 2019
Been covering professional sports for 25 years and I can’t stress enough how rare it is for a white professional player to PUBLICLY speak this way.
Privileged | By Kyle Korver https://t.co/iy63xcPE4r
— mike freeman (@mikefreemanNFL) April 8, 2019
You can read the full essay at The Players’ Tribune.
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