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Steve Kerr: Most “woke” coach in the NBA

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Coach Kerr’s comments on the significance of the NBA’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at the start of a week that will end with the inauguration of the most divisive and unprepared president in modern history commanded respect from around the league, and beyond.

Golden State Warriors v Detroit Pistons
Warriors Coach Steve Kerr at the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Detroit Pistons on December 23, 2016.
Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Steve Kerr wore a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. t-shirt into his pregame presser before the Golden State Warriors’ hotly-awaited game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.

The shirt read, “His dream inspired the world. Never stop dreaming,” and it featured an image of Dr. King in thoughtful repose. Dr. King was often photographed this way and it is only fitting that the most thoughtful, “woke” coach in the NBA would sport this image on the day honoring the Civil Rights icon.

Ann Killion via Twitter

When asked about the significance of the King Day celebration during the same week in which Donald J. Trump would be inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States of America, Kerr acknowledged the great divide plaguing the country right and expressed hope that a celebration of King’s life and legacy at the start of the week will “[remind] everybody to be compassionate, to be empathetic.”

Kerr’s call for empathy and compassion is not a sentiment he reserves for the King holiday, once per year. In the past, he has condemned crass political discourse as showing a “lack of respect and dignity” for the election process.

After the November 8th election, Kerr lambasted the divisive, hateful rhetoric coming out of the Trump camp, calling it “racist, misogynistic [and filled with] insulting words.” He remarked that the entire process had left him, his family and the team feeling “kind of disgusted and disappointed.”

Given that such a large percentage of the voting population is dismayed by the pending Trump inauguration, Kerr — as Dr. King would have done — fostered a path of peace on Monday, urging empathy and compassion for those who all too often fall through the cracks in our society.

“We are all products of our environment­ and some of us are much more fortunate than others,” Kerr said in the presser. “So many people are left behind, and so it is critical for people to have compassion and have empathy.”

Some could call this a last-ditch plea for the softening of hearts that have become solidified in vitriol and hate over the last year. Trump supporters, who have become emboldened in racism and xenophobia, and non-Trump supporters who have become embittered by those who voted for Trump, or who feel their way of life is under assault.

Most people, no matter the side of the political divide one is on, are hardened, angry or distraught right now. Meanwhile, many others are wary, even fearful, due to the drastic increase in hate crimes since Election Day. But, in his presser, Kerr focused attention on one of the most basic tenets of Dr. King’s teachings: peaceful coexistence.

Steve Kerr for president

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a desire for his four children to be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. It is the content of Steve Kerr’s character that endears him to so many, both inside and outside of basketball.

For many in Western society, self-worth is determined by wealth and professional achievements. Kerr, however, has demonstrated repeatedly his philosophy that basketball is only one part of life — not life itself. He knows, for example, that things like the police killings of black men is an issue larger than basketball, and he has spoken out on the topic.

On the day of sports broadcaster Craig Sager’s death, Kerr had the insight to lead the Oracle Arena crowd in a round of applause (rather than a moment of silence) to celebrate, rather than mourn, a man who had lived life to the fullest.

So, where does this “wokeness” come from?

The tragedy Kerr suffered early in life transformed him into a man who sees beyond himself and into the needs and suffering of others. His genuineness and deep insights into the issues of the day are what endear him to so many. These qualities are at the root of the “Kerr for president” social media uprising.

Even basketball fans who hate the Warriors have immeasurable respect for Kerr:

Kerr is recognized for being “woke”:

His humble gratitude does not go unnoticed:

And there is a Twitter faction that seriously wants Kerr to run for president —perhaps on a ticket with Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich:

During yesterday’s pregame presser, Kerr recited a quote by Dr. King, saying, “We may have all come over here on different ships but we’re now in the same boat.”

This idea is important now more than ever. Like it or not, no matter one’s beliefs, all of humanity is literally in the same, single boat — a planet we call Earth. Perhaps it’s time to work out differences and finally learn to coexist peacefully — and equally — before we all sink.