Gregg Popovich

Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin offer solutions to US racial inequity

Steve Kerr joined Gregg Popovich, Anquan Boldin, Demario Davis and Andrew McCutchen to co-author an op-ed offering concrete solutions to address some of the problems raised by protesters across the country.

To achieve a more equitable justice system for people of color, the op-ed says police need to be held accountable for their actions.

“When these killings occur, we tweet, we write letters, we make videos demanding accountability,” Kerr et al. said. “We protest and we vow to change hearts and minds so that our young men can run through the streets without fear.

“And soon after, we see another officer kill a black person, usually a man, and usually without consequence. Where, we wonder, is the ‘accountability’ allegedly so important when it comes to arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating young people of color?”

The problem, Kerr et al. say, is that police supervisors simply don’t have the power to take away a bad officer’s badge.

“Among the greatest obstacles to cleaning up our police departments are police union contracts, which hamstring officials’ ability to fire officers who engage in bad and even deadly behavior,” Kerr et al. said. “Those contracts, nearly always negotiated behind closed doors, have clauses that determine how misbehavior may be disciplined. Many contracts prevent departments from investigating reports made by anonymous civilians. They allow officers accused of serious misconduct to review the complaint and the evidence before making statements to investigators, ensuring that they can craft their story to best explain whatever the evidence will show...

“In the rare case that a department pursues disciplinary action, many contracts require arbitration, which almost always results in reduced sanctions. In a survey of data compiled from 37 police departments in 2017, The Washington Post found that of 1,881 officers fired since 2006, 451 appealed and received their jobs back — nearly 25%.”

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The op-ed says these contracts are renegotiated every few years, so if you’d like them to change it’s not hopeless.

“In Philadelphia, for example, the mayor renegotiates the police union contract next year. In Minneapolis, it is renegotiated every three years and is in negotiations now. We must demand that our elected officials remove terms explicitly designed to protect officers from investigation and discipline if we are going to have accountability and safety.”

The second suggestion the op-ed makes is doing away with “qualified immunity” for cops, which protects them “from legal liability for even the most outrageous conduct,” unless a legal precedent has been set with “basically identical facts.”

They elaborate by saying “qualified immunity” can be used to protect cops from wide-ranging accusations.

“One court, for example, found an officer had qualified immunity after he let his dog maul a homeless man,” Kerr et al. said. “In another case, officers who tried to steal $225,000 while on the job received immunity.”

Again, the heart of the matter for Kerr, Popovich, Boldin, Davis and McCutchen is accountability.

“Citizens face consequences for breaking the law and harming others; our government should make sure officers are no different.”

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Bulls honor Kobe Bryant's legacy by competing in win over Spurs

Bulls honor Kobe Bryant's legacy by competing in win over Spurs

And then there was a basketball game to be played.

After all the words, both public and private, and the video tribute, and the 24 seconds of silence and the 24- and 8-second violations to honor Kobe Bryant, the Bulls and Spurs played a game.

It wasn’t easy, even if it marked the Spurs’ second since Bryant’s tragic death on Sunday in a helicopter crash.

“I think we’re all kind of raw,” Bulls coach Jim Boylen said. “I think the whole league is hurting.”

The Bulls prevailed 110-109 carrying with them the pregame message that Boylen sent, a conclusion many players had already reached on their own.

“We’ve lost one of the greatest competitors ever, in any sport. To honor him, I thought what we needed to do was compete and play as hard as we could,” Boylen said. “I thought our guys did that.”

Lose yourself in the game. That’s how Kris Dunn put it.

And Dunn did so by staging a memorable battle against DeMar DeRozan down the stretch. DeRozan missed the second of two free throws on a borderline foul call on Dunn with 0.2 seconds left; then also missed a putback attempt at the buzzer that was waved off, but could have been overturned by replay review if it came to it.

DeRozan finished with 36 points, although Dunn foiled him twice late and also posted his league-leading 30th game with multiple steals. He joined Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen as the only players in franchise history to record 100 steals in a season’s first 50 games.

“We were kind of in a fog,” Dunn said. “As the game went on, your competitive nature took over.”

LaVine showed perseverance that Bryant might’ve admired. After starting 1-for-8 and scoring just four first-half points, LaVine tallied 14 of his 23 points in the final period. That’s 15 straight 20-point games for LaVine, whose two free throws with 2.1 seconds left marked the winning points.

“I got off to a slow start. I didn’t get the whistle a couple times. And I made some boneheaded plays on layups trying to switch hand, missed some easy ones,” LaVine said. “Just had to settle in. I’m always confident. All I needed to see was one go in.

“I don’t think [Bryant] would like anybody not to go out there and compete. He was the ultimate competitor.”

And then there was Boylen, who improved to 2-0 against his former boss and exchanged a postgame hug with Gregg Popovich. Boylen’s decision to intentionally foul Jakob Poeltl twice in 29 seconds flipped the game. Poeltl, a 50.9 percent free-throw shooter, missed three of four.

“When you watch DeRozan make two defended great twos and he looked like he was in rhythm, we’re not going to pull off and double him because then we’re giving up a 3. If you look at points per possession on 50 percent FT shooter, you’re going to take the 50 percent FT shooter,” Boylen said. “That was really a math decision.”

Bryant consistently drew raves for his basketball intelligence. He might’ve appreciated the math equation.

As for one more numbers game, don’t look now. But the Bulls are within two games of the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed.

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Gregg Popovich reflects on Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna's tragic passing

Gregg Popovich reflects on Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna's tragic passing

In the wake of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna's tragic passing, touching tributes have abounded around the country and world. Last night and throughout pregame of a matchup with the San Antonio Spurs, the Bulls organization and fans decorated the United Center — inside and out — in Bryant's honor. 

Before the game, one which feels hollow in the scope of the events of the past 48 hours, Gregg Popovich offered reflections on his time knowing Bryant. Popovich's Spurs and Bryant's Lakers battled numerous times throughout the aughts and early 2010s, but he said his most poignant memories of Bryant go beyond the hardwood.

"He was somebody that I always respected just because he was so much more than a basketball player. He was highly intelligent, inquisitive, curious. We all know about his competitiveness, but he was a strategist. He focused. He was driven. And would have been successful no matter what he chose to do in life," Popovich said. "We all remember the on-court, but to me, the special parts will be the very few times I was able to spend time with him off the court and have discussions with him just one-on-one for a variety of different reasons.

"We all have special thoughts of him to varying degrees no matter whether you knew him a little bit or not at all, even the millions that admired him and cherished just knowing you could watch a game with him in it. You feel like he was your own. That's when happens when you're iconic and you're basically a superhero."

The impact of this loss is felt more deeply because of how many lives Bryant touched in his all-too-few 41 years.

"I think it's pretty obvious what Kobe's impact was on the league. Millions of people. On each team, the young kids on your team idolized him and looked up to him," Popovich said. "And the older ones knew him and talked to him and had relationships with him. So, no matter which one of those groups you belong to, it was a tragic shock, obviously, because it was so unexpected. You don't dream of things like that."

Popovich also extended further condolences to all families affected by the tragedy.

"There are no words to adequately describe such a horrific event, I don't think," he said. "You just offer your heartfelt sympathies to the Bryant family and to all the other families, and all we can all do is just hope that at some point in life they find some peace and some understanding. That's all you can do."

The Spurs went on as scheduled for a game with the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, one which took place mere hours after news broke of Bryant's passing. It was one of eight games to take place that night, all wracked by grief that isn't likely to subside soon.

"I don't think anybody was," Popovich said when asked if he felt they were able to play their best game so soon after learning the news. "It didn't matter whether it was us or Toronto, I think everybody was in a little bit of a fog, which was expected.

"I think it'll still take some time, especially for the guys that knew him the best. To get back whole, just mentally and psychologically, emotionally more than anything. It's a tough thing."

Tonight, Jim Boylen said the Bulls and Spurs plan to honor Bryant with 8- and 24-second violations to start the game. The Bulls will also show a tribute video.

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