Recently, Green joined the advisory board of the non-profit RISE (the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality), an alliance of sports and professional figures aimed at improving race relations. Green wore shoes with the phrase “sideline racism” on them in Golden State's rematch against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day after donning RISE-inspired shoes in December. He also sold T-shirts, sweatshirts and mugs bearing the “sideline racism” phrase to help generate funds for the non-profit.
B/R caught up with Green to discuss his experiences with racism growing up, athletes like Colin Kaepernick speaking out against injustices and what inspired him to work with RISE.
Bleacher Report: Why is RISE important to you?
Draymond Green: I mean, I just think it's important because it's what I stand for. It's a lot of things that need to be spread. A lot of which needs to be taught around this country. Like, are you born racist or are you taught it? That's the whole thought behind it all. And I don't think nobody's born with that. You're not born knowing how to do math. You're taught that. You're not born knowing how to hate someone. You're taught that. And so I feel I want to use my platform to raise awareness about it. To help raise some[thing] positive. In our country, you look around and a lot of things that happen—it all stems from that.
Now whether that's racism, whether it's bigotry, whether it's gender inequality—whatever it is, it's all stemming from "me against you." And, like, how do you stop it? I just want to do my little part in helping try to stop it.
B/R: Was this something that [RISE chairman and Miami Dolphins majority owner Steve Ross] asked you to become involved with?
DG: Yeah, you know, he talked to me about what he's doing. Probably a year before RISE actually came to [be], he got the group all organized, and he got everything in place. He talked to me probably a year before, and he just told me about what he wanted to do. The thoughts behind it. And from the time he told me about it, I was on board. You know, just like I said, I have experienced some of it. I've witnessed some of it.
B/R: What have you experienced or witnessed in your life in particular that made you want to speak up about this?
DG: Our movie theaters growing up, all our movie theaters were inside of our township, a predominately white area. And the way we were treated when we went to the movie theater was like—it made you not even want to go because of how you were treated when you did go. At the same time, you wanted to see a movie, and that's the only choice that you really have. You got two movie theaters literally a block apart. They were the only two movie theaters we had. Yet you got treated the same way at both of them.
I remember at the recreation center where I grew up at—literally I grew up across the street—me and my friends are walking out one day, and a black van [came] flying in the parking lot. A cop hopped out and put us in handcuffs. Why are you putting us in handcuffs leaving out of the recreation center? Never gave us an explanation. Had us all sitting on a curb in handcuffs. Why?! I still can't tell you to this day why he hopped out and put us in handcuffs. And, if I had to guess, we were being racially profiled.
You know, it happens all over the world. You don't owe anything to anyone, but I feel that I want to use my platform to help change.
B/R: Are you happy with how much athletes have done as a whole?
DG: I think a lot of athletes have definitely ramped it up and are trying to help with that change. But I only think you should do it if you believe in it. I don't think you should do it just because someone tells you to do it. Whatever the reason may be, only if you believe in this should you do it. But I think different athletes have picked it up a lot. Just really getting behind what they stand for. Is it helping? We won't know right away. It's something that has to change over time. But like I said, all you can do is your small part.
B/R: Have you ever talked to your mom about it? Like, “If I say this, maybe it costs me a sponsorship”?
DG: I talk about it to my mom all the time. It's kinda ridiculous what you can't say nowadays. You really can't say anything you believe! I think it's fricking ridiculous how sensitive everyone is to everything, how much things are frowned upon. How much stuff will cost you nowadays. I think it's fricking ridiculous that we can't—there's certain topics that you can't really say how you feel about. I think that's ridiculous.
B/R: What would you like to see the next steps with RISE being?
DG: I think RISE is doing a great job of raising awareness, doing things to try to raise awareness. I think the next steps are putting some programs into place to try to help changes. And I think when you're talking about RISE, you're talking about programs all over the place. It's not just like you're talking the black area or you're talking the Hispanic area or you're talking the Caucasian area. You have to talk in all those areas. At the end of the day, it's about bringing all of them together and showing love and care for everyone. And just making all that as one. So I think it's really trying to put programs in place to help push that need.
B/R: Since you're in the Bay, what's been your take on what Colin Kaepernick did throughout the NFL season?
DG: I think he really is showing what he stands for. Regardless of how much criticism he took or whatever the situation was, at no point did he shy away from what he believed in. And I respect it.