Two Golden State Warriors jerseys, side-by-side, the No. 8 on the left bearing the name “George,” the No. 46 on the right the name “Floyd,” numbers represent the minutes and seconds an unarmed Black man spent dying under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.
It’s a Twitter profile pic, has been in place for more than a year and belongs to Steve Kerr. The three-time champion coach of the Warriors came to Twitter in 2009 and is known for commenting on social and political issues. He leans left. He has more than 650,000 followers. He is neglecting all of them.
He’s not being punitive, nor has he become indifferent to the planet’s tumult. Kerr acknowledged to NBC Sports Bay Area that this is a naked play for peace of mind.
“It actually started as an agreement with (Warriors center) James Wiseman,” Kerr said this week. “We were on a road trip somewhere, and I asked James how he was doing. It’s obviously a long season and he had his ups and downs. We were in a conversation about life in general and I asked him about social media. We started talking about it. I said, ‘What you say we take a break, we both take a break for a few weeks. Get off Twitter and anything else you’re on.’ He said, ‘Yes, let’s do it.’
“I’ve been off ever since. And it’s been bliss.”
Wiseman curtailed his tweeting -- two tweets, two retweets since March -- but Kerr is well into his fifth month of social-media silence. After punching out 15 tweets in the last week of March, he holstered his Twitter fingers and doesn’t know when, or if, he’ll use them again. What began as a bet with a player has become a boycott.
Kerr, 55, thought he’d go through withdrawals. He, so far, has not.
“Sometimes I feel ... I don’t know if responsibility is the right word, but I do feel that it’s good to speak your mind and share articles that you’ve read,” he said. “Have a presence. But I also feel that social media has been really destructive in a lot of ways, and divisive in our country.
“I found when I got off of it that it was kind of a relief.”
More and more athletes and other public figures are discovering the serenity of being untethered to the daily race to out-cruel each other through social media. It’s an obsession to many and it tears away at the mental health of many who otherwise might cope and move on. The scars become permanent, or at least that’s what some seem to feel.
“It’s never been harder to be a professional athlete or a person in the limelight,” Kerr said. “It’s like life is a big minefield. We’re all human; we all make mistakes. But social media has made mistakes unforgivable. It’s a just a terrible way to treat one another.”
Most frightening is the number of studies that have shown social-media bullying has a direct link to rising suicide rates, self-harm and self-isolation. It’s venom for the soul, causing breakdowns on a regular basis.
Those struggling through this emotional quicksand often are considered somehow lesser people.
Social media can be enlightening and it can be the source of lethal misinformation. It can bring people closer and it can rip them further apart. Where misfortune once was contained within the community, it’s now brought to the public square of the entire planet, where some express support while others celebrate the misery of people they’ve never met.
“People write things that they would never say to someone face to face,” Kerr said. “What’s happened is the political divide has been fueled by communication through social media that is so angry. You end up with this back-and-forth rhetoric that’s just toxic. It’s infiltrated our politics and our world and it really is a shame.”
Kerr still has a thirst for news and his concern about social and political issues. He’s an advocate for stricter gun laws and voting rights. Such matters are important and he’s not going to abandon them.
He simply has lost the desire to see and hear the sights and sounds around them.
“Staying away from all the BS and all the divisiveness and the rhetoric and the anger, it’s much healthier,” Kerr said. “It’s a much healthier way to live.
“I have no plans to go back.”
It’s news, sometimes debated, when an outspoken celebrity decides to tune out, as Kerr has done. He is now in an increasingly populated space, and there is every reason to believe it will get crowded as others search for a place to save themselves.