Difficult times such as these are where sports help us as Americans heal. They serve as an escape from the bitter reality that we may not want to accept, but must face in our day-to-day lives.
Wednesday, November 9th, 2016 was one of those days when this country, specifically California and the Bay Area, needed sports the most. Thankfully the Golden State Warriors were there to take our minds off of everything that is wrong in America.
I will never forget the home run that Mike Piazza of the New York Mets hit in the team’s first game back after the September 11th terrorist attacks on New York City. I was 11 years old at the time and did not fully comprehend the magnitude of what had transpired just ten days prior. The United States was in a extremely vulnerable place and Piazza’s dinger seemed to help sports fans find temporary bliss.
That I did understand.
However, that day was much different than Tuesday. Those attacks were from the outside. Tuesday was our own doing. And while it did not result in a loss of life, it resulted in a much larger loss of superficial dignity and equality towards women and minorities.
Over the past few years, the NBA has carried the torch among professional sports for social activism. A slew of players and coaches spoke out on the injustices that materialized in the last 48 hours.
Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy began the discussion by voicing his opinions to the Detroit Free Press before their game on Wednesday. Van Gundy, who attended Alhambra High School in Martinez, did not shy away from his utter disgust drawn from the Presidential election. His words are too real to paraphrase.
I didn’t vote for (George W.) Bush, but he was a good, honorable man with whom I had political differences, so I didn’t vote for him. But for our country to be where we are now, who took a guy who -- I don’t care what anyone says, I’m sure they have other reasons and maybe good reasons for voting for Donald Trump -- but I don’t think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic and ethnic-centric, and say, ‘That’s OK with us, we’re going to vote for him anyway.'
We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking that this is where we are as a country. It’s tough on (the team), we noticed it coming in. Everybody was a little quiet, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe the game the other night.’ And so we talked about that, but then Aron Baynes said, ‘I don’t think that’s why everybody’s quiet. It’s last night.’
It’s just, we have said -- and my daughters, the three of them -- our society has said, ‘No, we think you should be second-class citizens. We want you to be second-class citizens. And we embrace a guy who is openly misogynistic as our leader.' I don’t know how we get past that.
Martin Luther King said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice.' I would have believed in that for a long time, but not today. … What we have done to minorities … in this election is despicable. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. This isn’t your normal candidate. I don’t know even know if I have political differences with him. I don’t even know what are his politics. I don’t know, other than to build a wall and 'I hate people of color, and women are to be treated as sex objects and as servants to men.' I don’t know how you get past that. I don’t know how you walk into the booth and vote for that.
I understand problems with the economy. I understand all the problems with Hillary Clinton, I do. But certain things in our country should disqualify you. And the fact that millions and millions of Americans don’t think that racism and sexism disqualifies you to be our leader, in our country ... . We presume to tell other countries about human-rights abuses and everything else. We better never do that again, when our leaders talk to China or anybody else about human-rights abuses.
We just elected an openly, brazen misogynist leader and we should keep our mouths shut and realize that we need to be learning maybe from the rest of the world, because we don’t got anything to teach anybody.
It’s embarrassing. I have been ashamed of a lot of things that have happened in this country, but I can’t say I’ve ever been ashamed of our country until today. Until today. We all have to find our way to move forward, but that was -- and I’m not even trying to make a political statement. To me, that’s beyond politics.
You don’t get to come out and talk about people like that, and then lead our country and have millions of Americans embrace you. I’m having a hard time being with people. I’m going to walk into this arena tonight and realize that -- especially in this state -- most of these people voted for the guy. Like, (expletive), I don’t have any respect for that. I don’t.
And then you read how he was embraced by conservative Christians. Evangelical Christians. I’m not a religious guy, but what the hell Bible are they reading? I’m dead serious. What Bible are you reading? And you’re supposed to be — it’s different. There are a lot of different groups we can be upset at. But you’re Christians. You’re supposed to be — at least you pride yourself on being the moral compass of our society. And you said, ‘Yeah, the guy can talk about women like that. I’m fine with that.’ He can disparage every ethnic group, and I’m fine with that.
Look, I don’t get it. And I’m having a hard time taking it. I’m just glad that the people I’m with here — and I’ll include you guys, too — that I like. Because I’m going to have a hard time. I will say, one point of pride, I live in Oakland County, Michigan, and I was surprised, but Oakland County voted for Clinton. At least I can look around say, ‘We weren’t the ones putting that guy in office.'
It’s incredible. I don’t know how you go about it, if you’re a person of color today or a Latino. Because white society just said to you, again -- not like we haven’t forever -- but again, and emphatically, that I don’t think you deserve equality. We don’t think you deserve respect. And the same with women. That’s what we say today, as a country. We should be ashamed for what we stand for as the United States today.”
Van Gundy didn’t really touch on anything new but it was how he finished his thoughts that made everything else resonate with me that much more.
“That’s it for me,” stated Van Gundy as he came to a close. “I don’t have anything to say about the game tonight.”
Van Gundy’s comments opened the door for Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr to offer his own views on the election. Kerr said that the team discussed the matter on the morning before Wednesday’s game against the Mavericks, stating a unified “disgust” and “disappointment” on the process as a whole.
Kerr wasn’t finished there:
“Maybe we should have seen it coming over the last 10 years, you look at society, what’s popular, people are getting paid millions of dollars to go on TV and scream at each other, whether it’s sports or politics or entertainment.
I guess it was only a matter of time before it spilled into politics, but all of a sudden we’re faced with the reality of, the man that’s going to lead you has routinely used racist, misogynist, insulting words.
That’s a tough one.
It’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity, and there hasn’t been any. Then you walk into a room with your wife and daughter, who have basically been insulted by his comments, and they’re distraught. You walk in and see the faces of your players, most of them who have been insulted directly as minorities, it’s really shocking, it really is.”
Sports in a time of national unrest such as yesterday just seem to kind of take a back seat to the bigger issues at hand. We must use them as a bridge to help close the divisive gap that exists between those who are of different skin color, gender and level of education.
It is easy to hate. It is easy to shovel the blame on someone else. But the fact of the matter is that this is OUR country. This is the way things are. And as terrible as they might seem to some of us, we have to look these daunting issues of racism and misogyny in the face and figure out a way to love and empathize with one another.
(H/T BornInDaEB for posting a FanShot with Kerr’s comments first)
(Andrew’s commentary on last night’s game between the Mavs and Warriors can be found HERE)