Warriors

'Woke' David West is going to fight the fight against Donald Trump

'Woke' David West is going to fight the fight against Donald Trump

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He is a credentialed NBA star, with enough personal wealth to choose achievement over dollars, the conviction to stand on principle and such an acute cultural awareness that he’s simply unable to tune out the despair gripping much of America.

David West has deep concerns and many questions.

It’s not that he questions himself and everything he was taught and remains committed to teaching others. The Warriors forward, 36, has seen inequality, up close, yet still continues to believe in the human spirit and its capacity to overcome.

Though he clearly is disturbed by the wave of crude belligerence represented by our latest president, Donald Trump, inaugurated only days ago, what’s more distressing to West is the transparent bigotry and misogyny, which points up the rampant ignorance behind his rise.

“He brought out an element of our society that a lot of folks assumed was dead,” West said on the CSN Bay Area Warriors Insider Podcast. “A lot of folks assumed that that part of our country was no longer, based on the election of President Obama. But what Donald Trump did was, he reached for a demographic of people who responded to some of the most infantile, non-decent language that you could expect coming from a president candidate. Folks bit.”

West didn’t bite. Didn’t even think about biting. No, he’s going the opposite way.

He’s going to fight the fight. The married father of two is going to do it by flexing his mind more than his imposing 6-foot-9, 250-pound physique.

He’s going to stand with the millions of women who marched over the weekend. He’s going to stand with the millions of people who feel their quest for justice is endangered. He’s going to stand with those whose health care is in peril. He’s going to stand with those who understand that science telling us that climate changes is a grave global threat.

West is going to stand for truth and fairness and courtesy, even if he is uncertain whether the president sending out angry tweets and advocating “alternative facts” will be standing at his side.

“All the tactics that he used to get elected are the very things that someone like me, who works with youth on a consistent basis, are the things that we try to talk our young folks out of being,” West said. “We try to talk our young people out of being bullies. We try to talk our young men out of disrespecting women. We try to talk our young people into being accepting of other people’s opinions and other people’s walks of life.

“And he is the complete opposite of all of that.”

West, who earned his degree in communications from Xavier University in 2003, studies people of all stripes, from the great philosophers such as Nietzsche and Plato, to his coaches and the youngsters he mentors. He has a passion for knowledge as well as a profound appreciation for others with similar pursuits. Moreover, he believes in first-hand involvement.

So he involves himself in issues pertinent to gaining knowledge and investing -- financially, emotionally and intellectually -- in the future. He examines reality and how it relates to such issues as the infant mortality rate, the hypocrisy contained within United States Constitution and the tenuous dynamic between law enforcement and people of color.

West doesn’t stop there. He is a crusader for human rights. He has made multiple visits to Africa to peel back the layers of those who inhabit the continent. He is acutely attuned to matters of climate change; he’s the lone athlete/celebrity on the advisory board of Zoetic Global, an American-based group devoted to clean-energy technology, specifically hyperkinetic turbines.

West is, in the vernacular, “woke.”

He vocalized full support for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose very public attempts to shine a light on the frequency of deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of law enforcement.

There was considerable outrage over Kaepernick’s perceived disrespect of the flag as a symbol for the country when his actual cause is a plea for fairness.

“And people are too one-sided, too one-dimensional in their thought process, to get to that,” West said. “So all they saw him doing was a physical gesture. All they saw him doing was taking a knee.

“The issue, when we get to the basis of all this, is that there is a group of people who want justice -- people who want justice. And regardless of opposite or opposing views, justice should be just. And it should be for everyone. And when that environment doesn’t exist or is not readily available in terms of what we’re witnessing, then people are going to have things to say.”

Asked about the value of and prevalence with which sports celebrities speak up, as Kaepernick did, West offered an enlightening response.

“I’m not sure that the athletes, in terms of a collective group, are in a position, in terms of information, to take the type of stand that Colin took,” he said. “That’s kind of what gets lost in the interpretation as well. Folks see him, and if you’ve ever listened to Colin speak or if you ever followed him, he has a large information base. And I think it’s unfair to assume that other pro athletes have that same base.

“That’s very important, because what we have now, on the flip side, is very low-information athletes or former athletes who do speak up and who say things, who should not be saying anything at all.”

As for those NBA authority figures, such as Warriors coach Steve Kerr and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, comfortable with sociopolitical dialogue openly and from a knowledgeable perspective, West expresses gratitude for their words and effort.

“Those guys are different,” he says, “because they take the time to become a little bit more understanding of the guys they are around most of the year.

“Steve wants to know how we feel about what popped up on the news yesterday or the day before, about what’s going on because all of that plays a part who you are.”

As irritated as West is with the disrespect frequently shown to former President Barack Obama, the nation’s first black commander-in-chief, he was pleased with Obama’s ability to reply with “dignity and class” under sometimes trying conditions.

We have elected in Trump someone who West, putting it mildly, “somebody who’s not as nuanced in dealing with folks.”

West is among a select group of high-profile athletes to speak openly of his concern about Trump. Knicks center Joakim Noah expressed his discontent, as has Trail Blazers guard CJ McCollum and former 49ers receiver Torrey Smith.

West, however, is among the elder statesmen of American athletes. And someone who puts his mind and time where his heart is. So, there remains at least . . . hope.

“We’re just in for a very different type of administration, where we’ve got to brace for a different type of leadership, unlike anything this country has ever seen,” he said of Trump. “For a lot of folks, they’re just trying to see what he’s going to do next. What’s going to happen? Some of the things he’s said, the things that he’s backed up, the things he’s projected of himself out onto the world, I don’t think anybody expected him to be able to get elected to such a prestigious and powerful seat in this country.

“I don’t know how you balance it. We all have to just wait and see. Folks inside the political system, who are tasked with the job of keeping him in check and keeping him under control, we’ve got to hold their feet to the fire.”

The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break

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AP

The lesson of this second-place Warriors team at the All-Star break

And so ends a thoroughly confusing half-season for the Golden State Warriors – doing all the things you love and hate them for in one fell swoop.
 
In losing, 123-117, at Portland, they showed their full game. Big game by one of the Gang Of Four (Kevin Durant this time)? Check. Lousy start? Check. Big rally after lousy start? Check. Defensive lapses? Check. Impassioned yet disgusted pregame soliloquy by Steve Kerr on the manifest inadequacies of modern American thought? Check, and mate.
 
Of those things, the Kerr attack on the Florida school shooting was the most meaningful development of an otherwise meh evening, but Kerr’s having to explain to us again what we should already know is almost a default position now – like everything else about this season.
 
The Warriors go into the All-Star Break in second place in the Western Conference, which is pretty much what they deserve. They have lost the standings initiative through the sin of boredom, and even if leading the conference at the All-Star Break is essentially meaningless (which it is), it is still fascinating to see so many people buying the argument that “they’ll get it together when they need to get it together.” Never has the argument that the regular season doesn’t matter been put so succinctly; not even Sam Hinkie and his Process fetish did it as well.

In other words, Kerr's latest attempt to re-focus the players lasted about as long as you figured it would.

Things can certainly change between now and June; most NBA observers are still banking on it. The notation “pulled attention span, questionable” does not enter their thoughts. They still see the Warriors as clearly superior in any series, and barring catastrophic injury regard them as essentially invulnerable over a seven-game series – which is an interesting analysis given that they’ve only played two, and lost one of those.
 
But unless the Warriors put on a game-by-game pyrospectacular from this point forward and wipe out all traces of this half-plus of the season, this year will be remembered as the oddest of their run. They seem to have given in to their own hype, believing as we all do that they are merely a toggle switch that only needs an educated thumb to start the engines churning again – which they might well be, no matter how occasionally dissatisfying that may seem to the proletariat.
 
If they win their third title in four years, they will meet expectations without exceeding them, and this season is the first of their four long and delightful seasons that actually seems to be providing more length than delight. This is not condemnation, but rather a reminder that not every plan goes according to plan, and winning gets harder each time it is accomplished. That is the lesson of 2018 – so far, anyway.

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Is anybody listening? Steve Kerr and the sports world louder than our leaders

Steve Kerr is hurt and disillusioned and angry. He is completely fed up with government inertia in the face of epidemic gun violence that frequently manifests itself in mass shootings such as that which occurred Wednesday in Florida.

The Warriors coach is on this subject among the broadening chorus of voices, every one of them existing in a vacuum.

Everybody hears it, every time, but those within power structure never listen, for if they truly did they would take responsible preventive action.

In the wake of this latest tragedy it was evident Kerr, even as he prepared to coach the Warriors against the Trail Blazers in Portland, was particularly shaken.

His visage wore the news of another unhinged soul shooting up a school. At least 17 are dead, the vast majority of them students at Majory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland. And the casualty count is likely to rise.

“Nothing has been done,” Kerr said with visible contempt. “It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death, day after day, in schools. It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country, to actually do anything. And that’s demoralizing.

“But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives and not just bow down to the NRA because they’ve financed their campaign.”

Yes, he went there. Kerr urged American voters to seek out and support political candidates independent of the powerful National Rifle Association and, therefore, willing to generate momentum toward enacting responsible gun laws.

He barely bothered to address the current government, opting instead to plead with the voting public. Is anybody listening?

Anybody?

There is every indication that voices such as that of Kerr will not be silenced. He spoke passionately and from personal experience. His life was touched by gun violence in the most extreme fashion when his father, Malcolm, an educator, was assassinated at a school in Beirut 34 years ago last month.

Kerr is not alone in this quest for action. Many others joined in.

Former player Steve Nash, a Warriors consultant bound for the Hall of Fame, expressed his feelings on Twitter: “The rest of the world is having success prohibiting access to guns. I don’t see what the debate is about. It’s not working here. People are dying at alarming rates. If you value guns more than life and safety I don’t understand.”

Jared Dudley, a member of the Phoenix Suns and one of more respected veterans in the NBA, spoke up via Twitter: “So sad man! Gotta change theses Gun laws! I’m tired of the slogan guns don’t kill people only people kill people.. Change the Law!”

Utah Jazz rookie Donovan Mitchell kept his message to six words, printing “End gun violence” on his right shoe and “Pray for Parkland” on his left.

Mitchell’s mother is a teacher.

Here’s Tom Garfinkel, CEO of the Miami Dolphins: “How do we stop this? When will there be proactive change from our government leaders to address the complexity of why this keeps happening? Praying for those affected in Parkland. And Orlando, and Columbine, and Sandy Hook, and every other senseless and tragic shooting.”

And former NFL player Damien Woody: “I’m just over here thinking about how we as a society use the term ‘pro life’ . . . days like today doesn’t do it justice.”

And Seattle Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, quote tweeting the obligatory “prayers and condolences” tweet from President Trump: “Yea.. but the fact is that they AREN’T safe. Just more rhetoric and no action. WAKEUP!!!!”

Is anybody listening?

Anybody?

Wednesday was the 45th day of this calendar year -- and the 18th school shooting. Quick math tells us that equals two every five days, 10 every 25 and 20 every 50.

Many children of color grow up with violence. Studies have proved that the experience traumatizes them to varying degrees. There are neighborhoods all across these United States in which children are as afraid of law enforcement as they are of street gangs. It’s how they grow up.

The powerlessness and apprehension is growing each day. And each time our elected leaders choose to look the other way while holding open their duffle bags to accept NRA cash, the sense of despair gets deeper.

How many children will go to school today and tomorrow and all the days after that feeling anxieties they should not have to bear in a so-called civilized society?

They’ll be looking over their shoulders. They’ll be wondering about the student whose temper is a bit too quick and hot. They’ll be trying to avoid the student who is too much of a loner or makes threats. They’ll be wary of the bully and the bullied. They’ll be trying to escape those that pose with firearms on social media.

The despair is real, and if you look into the eyes of the young you can feel it.

“Hopefully, we’ll find enough people first of all to vote good put people in,” Kerr said. “But, hopefully, we can find enough people with courage to actually help our citizens remain safe and focus on the real safety issues, not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semiautomatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”

Kerr is among those willing to speak up and advocate for change. There are others. And they will be joined by many more who will make it their mission to follow the example of most every civilized society.

If the horrible events of Sept. 11, 2001, a single day, could persuade our government to take steps to make air travel safer, how many deadly events does it take to grow the principle and power to say no to the NRA and yes to the safety of children?

Is anybody listening?