Difficult times. Uncomfortable conversations. Angry feelings.
All are heavy on the mind of citizens worldwide after an unarmed black man, George Floyd, was killed by a knee to the neck from a Minneapolis police officer.
It has hit home for so many people, including Mavericks’ CEO Cynt Marshall. She admitted it took time for her to process this latest episode of deadly violence involving a police officer.
“To think, my parents left Birmingham (Ala.) in March of 1960 because of how black people were treated and now it’s 60 years later and we are still talking about how black people are treated,” Marshall said. “What we witnessed in that video was a public lynching. That’s outrageous to me. Something has to change.
“And I think this time is different.”
Different because a new generation is now finding out what the generations of Rodney King and Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks already knew.
She hopes this new generation – a more diverse and inclusive generation – can enact change that has been attempted without lasting success many times through history, which continues to repeat itself.
You know times are rough when the only way to get our mind off a killer virus is to have an even more destructive disease rear its ugly head.
Racism is vile. It is part of a system that makes black people mad and afraid of what awaits them when they go outside, especially after what happened in Minnesota. It can keep white people in a state of guilt or depression or just plain uncertainty about how or what to feel.
Marshall was part of a massive movement on social media this week to offer words of caution, words of healing and words of anger. She appeared on the podcast “Numbers on the Boards,” hosted by local radio personality and Mavericks’ television crew member Jeff “Skin” Wade.
Elsewhere, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich joined Golden State coach Steve Kerr and Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll on the “Flying Coach” podcast.
There were a lot of smart observations and insightful ideas about a very inciteful topic.
Following are some of the highlights from Marshall, Popovich, Kerr and Carroll:
On seeing the video of George Floyd’s life being taken:
Marshall: “I actually still can’t believe what happened – that we watched someone get murdered, with other people around, saying: stop. With people with cameras on them. And the four of them just did it. I still can’t believe it. George Floyd – and that’s so important to me that we say his name – George Floyd was murdered. And people watched it. We all saw it. Actually, it was hard to watch. I probably saw the video five or six times before I finished it. I was sobbing. My heart was beating fast. At first I couldn’t believe what I was watching. It makes me cry right now thinking that somebody’s son, brother, uncle was murdered with somebody’s hand in his pocket and people telling him: stop it, he can’t breathe. And now he’s dead. That’s just unbelievable to me.”
Popovich: “As this happened, I just felt a deep sadness, a deep frustration but also a horrifying embarrassment as I looked at that officer’s face with his hand in his pocket and the nonchalance with which he carried on, for an instant, it just took all hope away from me for solutions. I definitely won’t stay in that state. But for a moment, it was like, my gosh, thinking back to the hoses and the dogs of the ‘60s. And all the Jim Crow and Rodney King and all the deaths in between of young black men and women. And here we have a public lynching. So the embarrassment, the sadness, the anger just welled up. But then the overriding feeling was: how in the hell do black people and black people with children deal with something like this, and what can we say or do to help the situation. In a nutshell, those are all the things that were going through my head.”
What gives you optimism that change will come from this?
Marshall: “We, and I’m talking about my generation. have raised a group of children that have been exposed to different cultures. We’ve tried to raise them with everybody. And I don’t believe in this whole thing about you don’t see color. You can’t help but see color. You’re a white man. I’m looking right at you. I’m a black woman. You can see that. We have raised these kids around diversity and inclusion and the benefits of it, to where it’s normal to them . . . I love this generation.”
Kerr: “I truly believe the younger generation behind us has had enough. And as they become the current generation, they’re ready for some change. But I think part of this conversation is what can older white guys like us do. To me, that’s what this comes down to. Everybody in a position of power . . . we truly need the leaders of big corporations to stand up and say this has got to stop. Because they’re the ones that can influence the government. And if that influence happens, that will show we can initiate some change.”
Popovich: How do you make people feel the pain. There’s got to be pressure of some sort. And usually, it has been protests. Nothing happens because people are silent. I honestly think that the virus (COVID-19) has a lot to do with this. You’re holed up in your house, you’re already in a little bit of semi-depressed state. Your mood is a little different. Then the George Floyd murder was so in-your-face in the manner in which it was done. I think it sickened even some of the most ardent Trump supporters. Because that was a gut feeling that anybody with any kind of heart would have. It was primal. A primal feeling when there was an expressionless man doing this actually adjusting his knee on this man’s neck as he left his hand in his pocket.”
On rioting after civil tragedies:
Marshall: “Unfortunately, we’ve seen it before. And I think that’s what gets me with all of this. This is not our first time. Maybe we haven’t seen anything that horrific where we actually watched the life get sucked out of somebody. But we’ve seen it before where there was an unarmed black man who was killed. So we know there are going to be protests if they don’t do the right thing. And it’s not the first time that the right thing wasn’t immediately done. At least he was arrested, the guy who committed the actual act – the ultimate crime in my mind. So when justice is not fully served, we know what’s going to happen. The protestors are going to come out and every time this happens in my observation, the protestors get more and more diverse . . . and I think that’s actually a beautiful thing which is why I think this time is actually different from previous times.”
Carroll: “I hate to learn the hard way. But sometimes that’s the only way for the lessons to really drive home. The fear of it happening again ahead of us is unbearable to me. We’re never done. We can’t live with an oblivious way of looking at this . . . That ain’t OK.”
How should white people feel about this?
Kerr: “There needs to be a reconciliation, an admission of guilt. It’s our responsibility to admit that this is going on in our country.”
Popovich: “It’s not admitting that you’re guilty of something. But silence or inaction or being oblivious makes you complicit. And that’s the point that a lot of people don’t understand. As long as they are not yelling out the N word or they’re not the ones stopping somebody on the streets . . . that makes them innocent. That’s not the point. The point is to be aware of the past, of those centuries of treatment and understanding that emancipation didn’t really do a whole lot because it was followed with reconstruction and Jim Crow and so forth. It’s on us as white people to make this happen. It’s a constant and if this doesn’t do it, I fear I don’t know what will. But every incident has to be called out. Drunk driving. Mothers did that (worked to change the laws and perceptions). We do have the power. Black people have tried for a long time. It hasn’t happened yet. We’re the problem. We’re the fly in the ointment.”
Marshall: “I expect for white people to try to understand the plight of the black man. To try to understand this whole phenomenon that black men have to deal with in this country where people are afraid of them and they don’t even know them. Where people will cross the street when they see two or three black boys walking up the street. Or people get scared when you ring their doorbell and they want to grab the gun or call the police just because it’s a black man. I want my white friends to understand this is real, that we’re not making this up. The promise is also about treating people fairly and with respect. America has not lived up to her promise to her citizens. There’s a promise that has not been kept. That’s what’s underneath all this. People are saying that what happened to George Floyd is a violation of the promise and we’re not going to tolerate it anymore because he’s not the only one. Every time we turn around, there’s another one. And we’re not going to take it. America, you have to keep you promise.”
And what about the looting?
Marshall: “It makes me mad. I just think this is outrageous what is going on here because here’s a moment where we can have a peaceful protest where the police have come out to say: have the dialogue. We’re with you. Let’s do this. And then the bad stuff starts. It makes me mad. It makes me want to take these people and say: do you understand what you’re doing to this moment. You are causing people not to really understand what’s going on here. Instead of us talking about the root cause of this, instead of us talking about we demand justice. We demand a place where our sons aren’t killed on the street like that . . . that’s what’s at the root cause of this. We need some changes. But instead, you have fixed it so that now the talk is about you breaking into that shop and coming out with a TV. And now that’s what’s on the news and that’s what people who don’t want to really deal with the fundamental issues, that’s what they’re talking about because it’s easier to talk about that. It’s a nice distraction. And I can’t get mad at the people who are talking about that when somebody created that visual. But then what I can do is get mad about it and get back to the real conversation.”
On NBA players’ thoughts:
Marshall: “Our guys, they want to make a difference. Some are numb. They’re outraged, they want to do something, they want to channel their energy. So that’s what our team is working on – what’s our community action plan because we got to take all this and direct it in a good place. They want to do something. My boss (owner Mark Cuban) and I had a good conversation. As a white man trying to figure out, OK, what is it that I don’t know. What is it that I need to understand? What is it I can tell my wife’s friends to make this situation better? They want to understand and they want to make a difference. All of us. This is where we truly go deeper. Yeah, we want to play basketball, but right now, they’re not talking about basketball. And I think that’s beautiful. This touches everybody. The NBA has a culture of embracing everybody. To have the right kind of culture, the tone starts at the top. And the players have become more vocal. It’s not like there’s anybody asking for permission. These are grown men stepping up. They’re not going to tolerate it and they’re going to speak out and I love it. They speak up and they speak out because we have taught them that.”
Popovich: “(It’s important) to share ideas. It makes for not just a happier family but a family that feels responsible to each other – they’re proud to be there. If we can help that – whether that means having guests come in or certain books … it’s our duty to do that. We have that responsibility to keep that sort of culture alive. The more those cultures exist, the better off we’re going to be.”