By Dorothy J. Gentry
As the NBA prepares to resume its 2019-20 season later this month in Orlando, Florida, it will do so with racial injustice and how to combat it on their minds. During a Zoom session with the media, Dallas Mavericks Head Coach Rick Carlisle—who is also president of the NBA Coaches Association—shared plans his organization has to work for social justice and keep the conversation and push for equality going. “We decided to create an initiative to educate and take on the long fight against racial injustice,” Carlisle said of the NBA Coaches for Racial Justice initiative. The coaches crafted a statement after the killing of George Floyd that said in part: “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.” Carlisle confirmed the NBA plan to paint Black Lives Matters on all the courts in Orlando,” which is great. This is a great opportunity to keep this conversation going about a problem that’s been going on for over 400 years.”
“This platform in Orlando is going to be a great opportunity for us to talk about the history of racial injustice. We plan to revisit it on a daily basis,” he continued. The committee is also planning solutions within its member NBA cities. “This is a long-term initiative that we are getting into. We have a high level of motivation and are looking forward to Orlando being a real jump start,” he said.
Locally, Carlise said he and assistant Mavs coaches Stephen Silas and Jamahl Mosley, along with Mavs player Dwight Powell, have met with representatives of Dallas’s Mothers Against Police Brutality chapter, along with Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax, Mayor Eric Johnson, and Police Chief Renee Hall to begin conversations around social justice reform. “I’m proud that in our market we’ve partnered with Mothers Against Police Brutality and we are going to be working locally with them,” Carlisle said. “We’ve had great conversation policy-wise on ways that we can all work toward to make our city safer.” Carlisle also said if players choose to demonstrate during the playing of the national anthem while in Orlando by kneeling or in any way, “we will support our players 100 percent.”
Mavs GM Donnie Nelson, on the same Zoom call, said the country still has a long way to go with racial inequality. “Racial injustice is paramount in all of our minds. As everyone knows, we’ve come a long way, but we’ve got a long way to go, and that’s never been more evident in terms of the recent developments,” Nelson said. “As a country, as a community, as an individual across the board, I think we have an incredible platform by which we can put the spotlight on some issues that are paramount to all of us.” Every individual has to look internally and ask some questions, Nelson said. “We have to ask ‘what can we do better?’ We have to hold each other accountable, and there’s just really isn’t anything that is more front-of-mind important to us as a league, as a team and individually as that.”