Jay Wright and Saddiq Bey held a video conference Tuesday afternoon to discuss Bey's decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility at Villanova and stay in the 2020 NBA Draft.
But the conversation included more than just basketball.
Both Wright and Bey discussed the unrest across the country following George Floyd's death on May 25. Bey has spent the last three months in his hometown of Washington, D.C., and has participated in protests aimed at fighting for racial equality as well as police and criminal justice reform.
"That event (Floyd's death) hurt me, my family and my community," Bey said. "We go through adversity every year and it's sad that we see that a lot. This was kind of a boiling point, a tipping point for the injustice that's been going on. So personally it hurt, and I know it hurt millions of people across the globe."
The 21-year old Bey, who will likely be a first-round pick in the draft, explained the positive effect that taking part in protests has had on him.
"Just to see the communal bond, it was peaceful, it was a beautiful thing to see," he said. "It's an unfortunate event but I really think it's going to have an impact on the future."
Wright called this one of the most challenging times of his coaching career. He pointed out the initial difficulty of dealing with the impact the coronavirus has had on the world, and to a lesser extent, his basketball program. Now he's engaging in powerful conversations with his players about race relations and social justice.
"You're talking to a lot of young men who are really hurting," Wright said. "Usually on a team you have one guy who is going through something and you can all rally around him. This is something where you have a bunch of guys on the team and coaches who are really, really hurting. First, we listened. We just listened and tried to be empathetic and let guys know that we love them and we care for them and we felt their pain."
Wright mentioned that the conversations have now shifted toward how to take action.
"We've recently been talking about what we can really do as a team," Wright said. "We're putting together a program where we can educate guys as to who the mayor is, who the town supervisor is, who the chief of police is in their hometowns. We're making sure guys are registered to vote, (talking about) whether certain positions are elected positions or appointed positions, and teaching them how to use their protest and their influence to affect systematic change.
"It's now turned into an educational conversation, where in the beginning it was purely a loving, compassionate conversation."
It's a critical time in our country, and Wright is making sure his players are doing their part to bring about meaningful change.
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