Steve Kerr spoke out again Sunday night. The basketball coach dived into the deep end of our current sociopolitical pool, where the waters are more treacherous than ever and where advances for decades, if not centuries, in the making are imperiled.
In so doing, Kerr erased the line written, in crayon, by a mob of narrow-minded souls congregating within their cave. The line reads: Stick to sports.
With the instability in the nation’s capital adversely affecting so many lives, in so many places, how does anyone in America with a conscience, no matter his occupation, ignore the world beyond?
Sports have been an integral part of America’s sociopolitical fabric for more than 100 years, no later than our participation in the modern Olympic Games in 1896. From Jack Johnson and Jim Thorpe, to Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson, to Bill Russell and Jim Brown, to Muhammad Ali and Billie Jean King, to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Manute Bol, sport has been one of the first places we go to check our national temperature.
And, these days, we’re running a fever.
We’ve had consecutive weekends of national demonstrations, involving millions, over the direction in which we’re being taken. And just as sports figures like Aubrey Huff and Curt Schilling can voice their support of and belief to the current president, in the process castigating those who dare to question, so, too, can sports figures like David West and Kerr voice measured concern and dissent.
With President Trump signing an executive order designed to ban Muslims, with particular emphasis on seven countries, in the name of “keeping our country safe” from terrorists, professionals of all stripes are speaking up. We’re hearing from doctors and lawyers, soldiers and teachers, police officers and individuals roaming the halls of technology.
If you don’t know or care about someone feeling persecuted even more than before, well, you are in the cave.
On the subject of terrorism, Kerr has a particularly personal viewpoint. His father, Malcolm, was assassinated 33 years ago this month by two Islamic terrorists who charged into American University of Beirut, shot Kerr as he walked to his office -- he was president of the school -- and ran away.
“I would just say, as someone whose family member was a victim of terrorism, having lost my father, if we’re trying to combat terrorism by banishing people from coming to this country, by really going against the principles of what our country is about and creating fear, it’s the wrong way to go about it,” Kerr said after the Warriors-Trail Blazers game in Portland.
“If anything, we could be breeding anger and terror. So I’m completely against what’s happening. I think it’s shocking. I think it’s a horrible idea and I really feel for all of the people who are affected, families are being torn apart. And I worry in the big picture what this means to the security of the world. It’s going about it, completely opposite. You want to solve terror; you want to solve crime. It’s not the way to do it.”
Some will understand where Kerr is coming from on this and they’ll see the light he is trying to shine. Others will shrug and disagree, some politely and some abrasively.
Some might even summon the gall to suggest Kerr should stick to sports.
They’ll suggest the same to Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who has been an outspoken critic of Trump’s rhetoric and behavior. They’ll suggest it to those within the sports media who dare to express apprehension.
But sports and politics are linked not only because they sometimes share corridors of clout but also because they routinely cross paths. The Olympics serve as a showcase of national vigor and influence. Champions visit the White House. Numerous athletes, liberals and conservatives, have retired and entered politics.
Indeed, there are those who have and will continue to urge Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), a former tight end at Stanford, to pursue the White House in 2020.
Booker still loves sports, but he surely feels the national anxiety. And there he was on Sunday, at Dulles International Airport, just outside Washington, D.C., supporting and speaking out on behalf of those protesting Trump’s executive order.
If Cassius Clay had been a member of the “stick to sports” society, he would not have become Muhammad Ali, who stood on principle in the 1960s and waited patiently for the rest of society catch up to him.
Voices are needed, and now. This is the moment for the truly informed high-profile figures in sports to stand up and be heard. As for those not informed, do the research and wake up.
Educate yourself, or you risk staying in your cave when we need all the wisdom we can get.