Monte Poole

Former Warrior David West explains his biggest fear as a black father

Former Warrior David West explains his biggest fear as a black father

Programming note: Tune in to "Race in America: A Candid Conversation" tonight on NBC Sports Bay Area at 8 p.m and streaming here.

David West is 6-foot-9, a muscular 265 pounds and spent 17 seasons barely submerging his inner rage beneath a thick layer of skill and emotional willpower. His fury always was visible, though, and nobody wanted a wisp of his smoke.

And now, two years after his final game delivered the second of two championships won as a member of the Warriors, West fully realizes his biggest fear.

That the day or night will come when his young son, David Benjamin, has a fateful encounter with a highly nervous, easily triggered or simply racist police officer.

“You know, my son is 5-3, 120 pounds. He's 11 years old,” West says. “So, he is a big kid. And I'm scared to death for him.”

West was speaking as a member of a three-man panel, including Rep. Eric Swalwell and Warriors coach Steve Kerr, on NBC Sports Bay Area’s “Race in America: A Candid Conversation.” The one-hour discussion will be shown Friday night at 8 p.m.

The dread that stalks West is close to all black fathers. We’ve seen, read and heard enough to know the streets can be particularly dangerous for black boys, and not only because of gangs. What cranks up the anxiety within West is the possibility of his son becoming a statistic at the bullet of someone sworn to “protect and serve.”

Fathers know the story of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed by a Cleveland cop. They may not know of 13-year-old Tyre King, killed in 2016 by a cop in Columbus, 140 miles south of Cleveland. They most assuredly know of 18-year-old Michael Brown, killed by Ferguson, Mo., officer in 2014. They may or may not know of 18-year-old VonDerrit Myers Jr., shot by an off-duty St. Louis officer.

Every black father knows, and some have seen the horrible video, of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald being shot in the middle of the street by a Chicago officer.

In many cases the victim was unarmed. In some, not even posing a real threat. Trayvon Martin, 17, was walking home eating Skittles when George Zimmerman played jury, judge and executioner.

“That's my biggest fear,” West says West, who also has a daughter, Dasia. “My children.”

Little David likes basketball. He plays video games. Writes. Draws. And, in case you’re curious, he comes home with impressive report cards.

But he’s not allowed to do as much as he’d like, perhaps go as far away from home as he’d like.

“My wife (Lesley) is like, ‘You gotta send him’ . . . I don't want to send him to school,” West says. “I don't want him out of my sight.

“It's that serious for us his parents.”

The fear is not an overreaction within black families. It is a level of apprehension white parents are privileged to avoid. It’s not that cops don’t kill white kids. They do. But this happens less than half as often, even though there are five times as many white teens as black.

When Rutgers University last year conducted a study analyzing deaths involving law enforcement, it concluded that roughly 1 in 1,000 black men and boys in America is likely to be killed by police. The study, conducted from 2013 to 2018 reported by the Los Angeles Times, found black men and boys are 2.5 times more likely than white men and boys to be victimized.

“That 1-in-1,000 number struck us as quite high,” sociologist Frank Edwards, who organized the study, told the Times. “That’s better odds of being killed by police than you have of winning a lot of scratch-off lottery games.”

[RELATED: Warriors owners give powerful statement on race relations]

It’s not just the unrelenting tales in 2020 – the latest being the killing of George Floyd – that has West on edge. He is haunted, too, by what he experienced as a 9-year-old in Teaneck, N.J., where Phillip Pannell, a black teen, was fatally shot in the back by Gary Spath, a white officer.

Spath faced a manslaughter charge but was acquitted.

These are things one does not forget because so many similar cases continue to arise.

There also is hope that better days lie ahead. West is encouraged by the energy generated by throngs of multicultural groups, mostly young, demonstrating all over the world in the wake of Floyd’s death.

“The contribution that we want to make is moving this environment, moving the society forward, so that it's better later than it is for us now,” he says. “And that's in service to our children in the future generations.”

Warriors can find these silver linings from lost 2019-20 NBA season

Warriors can find these silver linings from lost 2019-20 NBA season

Ever since the ninth day of the season, when they were informed that Steph Curry would miss at least three months, the Warriors have had one request of the 2019-20 season.

End it.

Kevin Durant had departed for the Brooklyn Nets. Klay Thompson was in the early stages of a nine-month rehabilitation and, then, Curry was out for medical reasons. With 78 games remaining.

Management and coaches immediately knew what was coming, that their hope for a bridge year -- with no realistic chance to win it all but the possibility of tested veterans Draymond Green, Kevon Looney and Curry introducing the playoffs to a gang of new faces -- would instead be a dreaded gap year.

The Warriors on Thursday finally got the wish they’ve been so reluctant to share since the NBA was shut down on March 12 due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The league announced that Golden State’s season of aches, injuries, rehabs and despair is over.

The Warriors will not be among the 22 teams to go active when games resume July 31. The schedule is limited to teams sitting on a playoff berth or still with a chance of getting in. The Warriors were eliminated in their final game before the hiatus, a 131-107 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers at Chase Center, that left them with a 15-50 record that they truly earned.

“So,” general manager Bob Myers cracked to NBC Sports Bay Area recently, “I guess we got to see we’re not very good without Steph and Klay.”

Yet those 65 games provided Myers and his lieutenants in the front office a large sample size to evaluate the roster and devise a personnel plan. The Warriors know they need more size, better interior defense and, of course, more shooting.

It gave the expanded, 10-man coaching staff plenty of opportunities to teach and also learn. Indeed, for the first time since Steve Kerr’s initial season in 2014-15, the focus was on schemes and tutorials. Draymond was forced to become something of a player-coach, which he said raised his level of patience.

[RUNNIN' PLAYS PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

It was exceedingly valuable for rookies Eric Paschall and Jordan Poole to get far more playing time than they would have under normal conditions. Paschall was needed and he shuttled between both forward spots without embarrassing himself. Poole had enough time to lose his shot and realize what it would take to rediscover it.

Players like Poole and Paschall, as well as Andrew Wiggins and Marquese Chriss, who are expected to be in the rotation next season got a chance to soak in the culture and spoke highly of it.

“No matter what your record is, there's so many ways to steal the joy from a team,” Myers said. “There's ways to kind of make it feel a lot harder than it should. Steve does a great job of keeping things in perspective, keeping it light but also competitive.”

[RELATED: Steph took noteworthy knee in protesting police brutality]

The most important thing the Warriors can take from this season, though, is the mental and physical intermission afforded their three stars. That cannot be overstated.

Coming off five consecutive runs to The Finals, Curry, Green and Thompson never got much of a break. All three, even with Klay coming off an ACL tear, should be refreshed when the next season starts, probably in December. Given the tremendous energy Draymond must expend to be at his most effective, he probably needed more recovery than he is willing to admit.

The unspoken but prevailing sentiment beneath Warriors ownership was that the NBA would be wasting of a couple weeks on a team going nowhere.

The Warriors, knowing there was minimal chance they would return to finish the season, already had begun shifting toward 2020-21. Now, they can bury the season they want to forget and go full speed toward what they have reason to believe will be better days.

Saints' Drew Brees shows he's part of America's problem, not solution

Saints' Drew Brees shows he's part of America's problem, not solution

Drew Brees outed himself Wednesday. Told us he’s not listening. That he’s committed to being part of America’s conspicuous problem instead of aligning with those seeking a solution.

Even after all we’ve witnessed in recent days, the Saints’ superstar quarterback still can’t accept someone kneeling before the flag, or during the national anthem, in pursuit of justice.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States of America, or our country,” Brees told Yahoo Finance.

This is it’s not much of a surprise to anyone who heard Brees speak on social issues. Still, it is profoundly disappointing that one of the NFL’s superstar quarterbacks, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, can fail so epically in the face of such graphic evidence of injustice.

Brees tried to explain his position by saying his two grandfathers fought in World War II, putting their lives at stake for a better America.

“So, every time I stand with my hand over my heart, looking at that flag and singing the national anthem, that’s what I think about,” he said. “And in many cases, it brings me to tears, thinking about all that has been sacrificed, not just those in the military. For that matter, those in the civil rights movements of the ‘60s. And all that has been endured by so many people up in until this point.”

Those who might have thought Brees more perceptive than his comment indicates now know better. Those who assumed he might be among those who have experienced some sort of racial awakening in the wake of the George Floyd murder, slapping him into the plight of those unlike him, now realize that it’s not there.

And it’s not coming – because, again, he is not listening.

Colin Kaepernick’s decision to peacefully protest by kneeling during the national anthem was never about the military. Kap actually consulted with Nate Boyer, a retired member of the Green Beret, who concluded kneeling would be the most elegant and least disruptive form of protest.

Does Drew not know this?

Or does he not care?

Many of us, including myself, have relatives that have served in the military. My father and my mother and my brother are buried in a national cemetery. Yet their service to their country did not insulate them from the racism that results in unwarranted detainment, unlawful arrests, being victimized by a discriminatory banking system and steered to specific neighborhoods when shopping for a home.

Not to mention the constant potential of police brutality, which was at the core of Kaepernick’s protest as well as the outrage that has spread around the globe.

[RELATED: Bruce Maxwell's kneel still sparks hate, misunderstanding]

“Is everything right with our country right now? No. It’s not,” Brees conceded. “We still have a long way to go.

“But I think what you do by standing there and showing respect to the flag, with your hand over your heart, is it shows unity. It shows that we are all in this together. We can all do better, and that we are all part of the solution.”

That last line is the most accurate in Drew’s statement. We can do better, and we must all be part of the solution. But those words ring hollow in the full context of what he had to say.

Brees is a wealthy white man. So maybe, deep down, he sees the quest for justice something best left to others. How else can such ignorant comments be interpreted?