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NBA coaches’ association forms committee on racial injustice

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Coaches Association is creating a new committee devoted to fighting racial injustice in National Basketball Association markets, according to an ESPN report, in the wake of police brutality hitting a new flashpoint in the US following the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd.

The new committee will include industry leaders such as Golden State head coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, who for years have been outspoken, thoughtful voices on a variety of political and social issues. 

As protests are now happening across the US following Floyd’s death, the NBCA is looking to assume an even greater voice in helping to spur societal change.

“The events of the past few weeks – police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism are shameful, inhumane and intolerable,” the NBCA said in a strongly worded statement signed by 33 current and former head coaches and nearly 180 assistants. “As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have voice – and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.

“Witnessing the murder of George Floyd in cold blood and in broad daylight has traumatized our nation, but the reality is that African-Americans are targeted and victimized on a daily basis. As NBA coaches, we cannot treat this as an isolated incident of outrage. We are committed to working in our NBA cities with local leaders, officials and law enforcement agencies to create positive change in our communities. We have the power and platform to affect change, and we will use it,” the statement continued. 

Popovich also said in a separate interview with The Nation that white Americans “have avoided reckoning with this problem forever, because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it.”

“The thing that strikes me is that we see all this police violence and racism, and we’ve seen it all before, but nothing changes,” Popovich said. “That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change.”

Madison Square Garden, parent group of the New York Knicks and the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers, had not released any sort of public statement regarding Floyd’s death, unlike nearly every other NBA team. An internal staff email from MSG executive chairman James Dolan illuminated some of his thinking behind that reluctance to speak out publicly.

“As companies in the business of sports and entertainment, we are not any more qualified than anyone else to offer our opinion on social matters,” the email read in part. “What is important is how we operate. Our companies are committed to upholding our values, which include creating a respectful workplace for all, and that will never change. What we say to each other matters. How we treat each other matters. And that’s what will get us through this difficult time.”