OAKLAND, Calif. — Steve Kerr fully expects NBA players to take up their own version of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s stand against racial oppression.
Whether his own Golden State players show some kind of support or opt to protest during the national anthem once the season begins, he isn’t sure. That will be a topic of discussion as a team this training camp for the Warriors, and the reigning NBA Coach of the Year already has had discussions with a few of his players individually about the issue and shared his personal thoughts.
“No matter what side of the spectrum you’re on, I would hope every American is disgusted with what is going on around the country, what just happened in Tulsa … with Terence Crutcher,” said Kerr, who also has been outspoken on the issue of gun control given that his father, Malcolm, was murdered while he was the American University president in Beirut when Kerr was 18 and a freshman at the University of Arizona.
“It doesn’t matter what side you’re on the Kaepernick stuff, you’d better be disgusted about the things that are happening.”
Kerr, whose Warriors won an NBA championship in his first season as coach then finished runner-up to LeBron James and Cleveland in June, will be challenged to blend his new team right away with Kevin Durant joining two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Stars and Durant’s U.S. gold-medal winning Olympic teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.
And Kerr encourages his players to talk about social issues far beyond the basketball court — and speak up for what they believe in when done carefully.
“Our guys have already been asked a lot about it. It’s a tricky topic, not the Kaepernick situation but just social activism in general,” Kerr said Wednesday. “It has to come from the heart. There’s a lot of fans out there that say, ‘Stick to sports, we’re trying to get away from all this by watching your team play,’ and I understand that. On the other hand, these guys do have a voice. As long as the message is clear, I’m all for people speaking out against injustice. Whatever form that takes, if it’s non-violent and it leads to conversation, then I think that’s a good thing.”
Kerr has paid close attention to Kaepernick, who said Tuesday he has received death threats for his decision to kneel through the anthem. But Kaepernick also has made a point that he supports military members and is speaking out against police brutality and shootings of African-Americans.
“I would think that something similar will happen in the NBA,” Kerr said. “Nobody has to be right, nobody has to be wrong. I would hope that everybody sort of respects each other’s point of view. There are valid points of view on both sides. … I understand people who are offended by his stance, maybe they have a military family member who is offended or maybe they lost somebody in a war and that flag or the anthem means a lot more to them than someone else. Then you flip it around and what about non-violent protests? It’s America, this is what our country’s about, it’s non-violent protesting. That’s what it should be about.”
Like many others who have supported Kaepernick even if they might disagree with his methods, Kerr appreciates how the quarterback has opened up an important conversation in this country.
“We like to talk about stuff, basketball or not, and I think it’s probably one of the best things that’s come out of the Kaepernick issue is that people are talking,” Kerr said. “It’s a good thing.”