On Thursday, the Warriors announced the hiring of Greg Suhr, former Police Chief of the San Francisco Police Department. The team said that he was an “expert on public safety, security issues, event planning and operations, VIP protection, risk assessment and other matters related to the safe and secure operation of a major public venue.” But amid backlash over his leadership of the unjust police force, he was fired just a few hours later.
The SFPD’s problems under Suhr were numerous and egregious. Protests of the shooting of Mario Woods by SFPD officers in December 2015 led to numerous inquests of Suhr’s police force. The investigations found dozens of racist and homophobic text messages sent between the officers, using derogatory slurs, including calling black people “monkeys.” Suhr resigned just hours after a police officer fatally shot the unarmed Jessica Williams in May 2016.
In response to continued protest and complaint, the Department of Justice conducted a full investigation of the police force. They found that the San Francisco Police Department “stops and searches African Americans at a disproportionately high rate and does not adequately investigate officers using force.” Furthermore, the police force received insufficient training and recorded minimal information about use of force incidents.
The hiring of Suhr as a security consultant would’ve been disastrous. Many of the Warriors’ most passionate fans are disadvantaged minorities, and if Suhr ran his security team anything like he ran his police department, they would likely be subjected to increased scrutiny and distrust. Furthermore, with worries that minorities are becoming priced out of game tickets due to the team’s success and upcoming move to the new arena in San Francisco, there’s a real chance that many people of color are already encountering trouble attending and enjoying Warriors’ games in person.
It’s easy to forget about these types of issues in the Bay Area, which prides itself on its tolerance and forward-thinking values. It’s comforting to point at other areas of America and draw a dividing line — one that distinguishes between an enlightened “us” from a backwards “them.” But even here, the specters of racism and inequality inhabit the very institutions we trust.
The brand of policing in Ferguson and Baltimore and San Francisco are all rooted in the same distrust and fear of people of color, especially African Americans. This prejudice has no place within our Warriors’ community: a home to outstanding black athletes and black fans.
The backlash to Suhr’s hiring was immediate. On Twitter, activists and ordinary fans criticized the Warriors fiercely. About the same time, Andre Iguodala sent one of his trademark cryptic tweets, possibly about Suhr’s hiring:
On it...— Andre Iguodala (@andre) January 12, 2017
The Warriors cut ties with Suhr within a few hours of the announcement of his hiring. The organization listened to the fan base, and should be commended for its swift reversal.
As depressing as it is to think about the despair and gravity of social issues like this, there’s real reason for optimism going forwards. We live in an uncertain time where many people feel angry or left behind by the state of our nation — where institutions we trusted and powerful people we believed in have let us down. Let this incident remind us that the voice of the people still has the power to inspire.
Institutions will still listen to the people they depend on.
Your voice matters.