Programming Note: “Race and Sports in America: Conversations” airs Monday at 5 p.m. PT on NBC Sports Bay Area.
If you’ve followed the arc of Stephen Curry’s adult life, you know his priorities beyond basketball include faith, being a model husband and father, aiding the unprivileged, funding worthy causes and speaking up for justice and equality.
The optics are good. What’s more impressive are the indications that this is how he lives.
What you might not know is that the Warriors superstar -- the most beloved and admired athlete in the Bay Area -- has been energized by the tumultuous events this year that generated global outrage and sparked a movement in hopes of humanizing all Americans.
“Everybody has a role in this,” Curry said during a panel discussion conducted by NBC Sports during the American Century Championship golf tournament in Lake Tahoe.
“You think about the protests, the participation on every different side of the conversation, to the impact of social media, people just posting and reposting and sharing information,” Curry added. “That’s important.
“You've got people in the streets that have been -- you’ve got real-life activists that do this for a living. They do this and have been doing it for years. And now we just need to support them. Send resources. Volunteer your time. Put them on a pedestal, because we don't know all the answers.”
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When teammate Juan Anderson-Toscano organized a rally in Oakland last month, Curry and his wife, Ayesha, were there, walking the streets with hundreds of others, demonstrating collective indignation at the tragic killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor -- all unarmed Black Americans slain this year in the name of law enforcement.
“(Sports figures) have the ability to kind of ignite those kinds of efforts and again be able to put people in position to really make change,” Curry said. “One of our main goals is knowing the platform we have, knowing what sports has given us in our lives, the people. If you say anything, it's going to be a headline. So why not use it.”
Curry during the tournament wore shoes depicting Taylor’s name and likeness. While prize money goes to a number of charities, including the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI.org), Curry will donate his shoes to Black Lives Matter to be auctioned, with proceeds earmarked for BLM.
Count Curry among the growing number of sports figures, aware that some Americans are disillusioned with elections, raising their voices on the subject of voting. On the visor he wore during the final round Sunday was a button urging people to vote.
Former Philadelphia Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, an Oakland native 2007 National League MVP, joined Charles Barkley, Ozzie Smith and Curry on the panel. When Rollins emphasized the importance of voting in local elections, Curry was quick to echo the sentiments.
“That's where the real change happens,” Curry said, expressing his dismay over voter suppression tactics in some regions.
“And that's something that is so ... the sense of urgency in that to me is so real, because we'll go out in November and then we'll be coming up in the next cycle, and we need to have our voices heard at the polls to again hold people in positions of authority and power accountable for looking out for everybody, equally.”
Though Curry’s celebrity status provides a measure of insulation from some of the racial animosity often directed by law enforcement and other sectors of society, he realizes it’s not a bullet-proof shield. Nor is he allowed the comfort of believing his children, two daughters and a son, will be immune from profiling.
“As a young father, with a seven-year-old and a five-year-old, the questions that they're asking, because they're being shown these images, you can't really -- you can't and you shouldn't, really -- shield them from this,” Curry said. “And the way that we go about as parents talking to them, being honest and truthful about how society has been for 400 plus years and all that we are trying to do collectively to take this moment, turn it into a movement and keep applying pressure to change our experience, I think it's rewarding.
“But knowing that you might not see the results right away, we have to continue to double down and double down and keep people accountable in all walks of life, all industries, all forms of leadership, the judicial system, all those types of things. And hopefully for my kids’ generation, their kids, we will see change.”
Curry is, by nature, an optimist. It’s the outlook he had to have growing up with ears burning from the words and whispers of those who doubted his abilities. It’s easier for him to remain optimistic knowing his adult life is bringing so many things others never thought he’d have.
Witnessing the demographics of the protests, there is good reason to feel positive.
Given the realization that his voice carries beyond the basketball court, there is good reason to believe Curry will remain engaged in the fight to make America a better nation.