Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr., Jim Boylen participate in Juneteenth march

Bulls’ Wendell Carter Jr., Jim Boylen participate in Juneteenth march

On Friday, a mass of Chicagoans participated in a faith community-led demonstration through Grant Park in celebration of Juneteenth.

The Chicago Bulls marched with them.

Specifically, Wendell Carter Jr., head coach Jim Boylen, assistant coaches Nate Loenser and Karen Stack Umlauf, and other Bulls staff took the streets. Behind the scenes, Boylen has taken an active role encouraging team-wide dialogue on racial injustice; beyond a team Zoom teleconference Zach LaVine and Thad Young spoke positively about to reporters, Boylen has also individually reached out to players to check in on them. As an organization, the Bulls recently introduced paid time off for Juneteenth and Election days, moving forward.


The Bulls contingent took up near the rear of the crowd. Boylen and Carter, save for a few words to those flanking him, marched deliberately. All parties donned face coverings, as did most every marcher, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But other than one passer by exclaiming “That’s Jim Boylen and Wendell Carter!” and offering a quick wave, members of the Bulls seamlessly blended into the throng of celebrators, who assembled under the leadership of Bright Star Church Chicago and Faith in Justice and Peace (FIJAP hereafter) — the latter a coalition of local faith-based organizations that have come together to address societal issues in five key areas: systemic racism, economic and community development, housing, health (mental and physical) and legislation/policy. 

The march ran from the corner of Columbus and Roosevelt on the south end of Grant Park up to Monroe on the north end. Along the way, demonstrators brandished signs, sang songs and chanted the names of fallen members of Black communities, many of whom were unjustly killed by police.


The tenor of the proceedings ranged from celebratory to solemn to inspiring. Upon convening just north of Butler Field, Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star led a stirring rendition of the Black National Anthem, followed by speeches from a litany of local faith leaders. Pastor David Swanson compelled white people to actively challenge “the systemic racism and structures of white supremacy that are being exposed,” emphasizing that Friday’s march represented not a finish line, but a starting point. Muslim, Jewish and Baháʼí faith leaders also spoke, preaching solidarity with Black communities.

Harris resided over all, bouncing the microphone from speaker to speaker, and leading prayers, chants and moments of silence — some observed, symbolically, on one knee. He wrapped the event by performing a rendition of a “Black Lives Matter” song he penned himself, to ebullient response.

“Today you saw thousands of people from faith — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, Baháʼí, and so many others, you had elected officials, you had the police out here with us. Unity. This is what it's all about,” Harris told NBC Sports Chicago. “This march was about being solution-oriented, and so Faith in Justice and Peace is a vision that the lord gave to me, and I'm excited to have all of these partners saying we want to be involved to bring systemic change.”

Throughout, Harris lauded elected local officials in attendance using their platform to stand for action, and gave Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot special recognition for opening up Grant Park to Bright Star, FIJAP and the marchers for the demonstration.

Of the Bulls’ presence at the march, and the rapidly growing exposure of the movement, Harris expressed excitement.

“People of influence and affluence have to come and be involved in this,” Harris said. “Black people have been unheard in this country since we've been here, since we were brought over here at the bottom of slave ships and in chains. Many of our ancestors, matriarchs and patriarchs, they all died. 

“But now people are paying attention. Chicago Bulls were out here, White Sox, Cubs, the Bears… they called, the owners were calling me saying we're with you, we got your back, some of them supported in a way where we were able to get all of [these resources].”

But as Swanson preached, there’s a long road ahead. Harris’ biggest takeaways from the day’s events were optimistic.

“I'm excited,” Harris said. “My hope is next year, we do Juneteenth out here again and we have tens of thousands of people if not hundreds of thousands of people. Hopefully COVID is gone and hopefully all restrictions will be gone, because we need to make sure we educate people about the lived experience of the African-American people.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Bulls Talk Podcast: Jim Boylen is out as Bulls head coach

Once the regular season ended, the official start of the offseason began and the Bulls' first move was to let Jim Boylen go. In an emergency edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, host Jason Goff is joined by Bulls insider K.C. Johnson and Bulls beat writer Rob Schaefer as they discuss the decision.

(1:30) - What led Arturas Karnisovas to the decision to let go, Jim Boylen

(6:00) - Arturas Karnisovas on having full power to make decisions

(16:30) - Potential candidates to replace Jim Boylen

(25:20) - How can a coach get the best out of the current Bulls roster

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Bulls firing Jim Boylen proves Arturas Karnisovas has autonomy — and a vision

Bulls firing Jim Boylen proves Arturas Karnisovas has autonomy — and a vision

Maybe it’s time to take Michael Reinsdorf and Arturas Karnisovas at their word. 

When Reinsdorf introduced Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations in April, the Bulls’ president and chief operating officer emphasized that Karnisovas had full autonomy on all basketball-related matters.

When Karnisovas held an end-of-season conference call with reporters in June, he talked about the critical nature of getting the coaching situation right and how he planned to take his time evaluating Jim Boylen.

The longer Boylen stayed employed, people speculated that Reinsdorf valued money over movement. Many questioned Karnisovas’ autonomy — and sanity — during his evaluation process.

Karnisovas fired Boylen Friday. Just like he fired longtime general manager Gar Forman in April and replaced him with Marc Eversley. A new era is upon the franchise. 

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

“I respectfully acknowledge the hard work and dedication of all of those in this organization who have come before me,” Karnisovas said on a conference call with reporters. “But I’m dedicated and committed to cultivating a culture that creates winning and has its sights set on championships.” 

Former Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, Milwaukee Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Denver Nuggets assistant Wes Unseld Jr., Dallas Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas and Philadelphia 76ers assistant Ime Udoka are five of the names on Karnisovas’ list of likely interviews, sources said.

RELATED: Here are 5 initial candidates to replace Jim Boylen as coach 

Three things stand out about the process: Karnisovas is a thoughtful, deliberate decision-maker, not swayed by public pressure and choosing to work by his own process. The perception of the Bulls needed to change, particularly with them projecting to be players in the 2021 free-agent market. And the common characteristic of the initial interview targets is people strong on player relationships and player development.

Just watch the Nuggets as they compete in bubble ball during the NBA restart on the Disney World campus. That roster, which Karnisovas had a large hand in shaping, screams player development. It’s filled with intriguing young, athletic talent and two-way players. 

That’s the vision for the Bulls. And now it will include a new coach.


So why now?

Karnisovas cited an unprecedented regular season ending today and next week’s draft lottery intensifying draft preparation as reasons. But there’s also progress being made on the NBA and NBPA agreeing to allow group workouts at respective team facilities in September for the right teams not part of the Disney World restart. 

While Karnisovas said there’s no timeline or deadline to have a new coach in place, those workouts would be a good guess.

“In terms of what we’re going to be looking for, we’re going to continue focusing on player development and an emphasis on player development, someone who puts relationships with players first and is a good communicator,” Karnisovas said. “There are a lot of factors going on in terms of criteria that we’re looking for in a coach, but again, those are the main ones. We will start the search immediately.” 

Karnisovas thanked the Reinsdorfs for giving him the autonomy to make a decision based on basketball reasons, not financial ones. You know, just like they said they would.

“The signal is that we’re changing things. It signals that we’re looking forward to what comes next,” Karnisovas said. “We just felt this program needed a change and needed a change now. And I can’t wait to find the next coach for this group.”