Steve Kerr, Stan Van Gundy Talk Players Coalition, Fighting Racial Injustice

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 27, 2020

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 12:  Head coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors watches from the bench during the first half of the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 12, 2020 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Suns defeated the Warriors 112-106.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2020 NBAE. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Longtime NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Stan Van Gundy said Wednesday the deaths of black men George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery have further increased the need for white Americans to speak out against racism.

Kerr and Van Gundy, who are both white, have worked closely with the Players Coalition, a group of athletes working to promote social justice and racial equality, and told Yahoo Sports' Vincent Goodwill they're seeking more help in the effort.Β 

"We have to do something about it," Kerr said. "I think in particular ... white people need to stand up and say we're not gonna stand for this. All we have to do is imagine if the roles were reversed, the races were reversed, it would be a completely different outcome."

The Golden State Warriors head coach was speaking about Arbery's death, which led the Players Coalition to send a letter to United States attorney general William Barr demanding the arrest of the men involved.

Angela Barajas and Martin Savidge of CNN reported the Arbery case is being investigated as a federal hate crime. He was killed Feb. 23 in Georgia after being shot three times during an altercation with Gregory and Travis McMichael, white men who followed him and said they believed he was involved in a string of robberies in the area.

Video posted online showed the McMichaels, who were arrested May 7 on charges of felony murder and aggravated assault, chasing down Arbery while he was out jogging before the confrontation, per Barajas and Savidge. William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., who recorded the video, has also been arrested on a felony murder charge.

Floyd died Monday after being pinned to the ground by Minneapolis police. Video showed officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on Floyd's neck, per Omar Jimenez and Christina Maxouris of CNN. Floyd said he was in pain and having trouble breathing before being transported to the hospital where he died.

He was being arrested after officers responded to a call about an alleged forgery. His death and video of the incident have sparked protests in Minneapolis, per Jimenez and Maxouris. Chauvin and three other officers were fired by the police department but have not been charged.

Van Gundy, the former head coach of the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons, told Goodwill black parents are forced to have difficult discussions with their kids that aren't part of the white upbringing:

"I've never met a single black parent that doesn't have to sit their kids down and talk to them very directly about how you deal with the police if you're stopped. 'You do this, this and this, so you come home alive.' I started getting more of that in my career. I'm like holy [expletive]. I've never once talked to my kids about that or felt the need to. If my kid got pulled over, it was because they deserved to get pulled over. Even if they mouthed off, nobody was gonna shoot them."

Kerr believes the issues stem from the foundation of the country and have never been truly rectified.

"Let's face it, we're a nation founded on slavery," he told Goodwill. "If we think that because slavery was abolished, that's the end of it, we're just blind to the reality of it. Modern society is directly impacted by centuries of racism and slavery."

Kerr added the generally differing life paths in white and black communities create a divide white Americans must understand to help fix the problem:

"The way I feel as a white person ... we're all running a marathon and we've told all the African American communities, 'you don't get to start until we're halfway there. At the 13-mile mark, you get to start.' At the end, white people are like, 'where are you guys?' That's, basically, why the impact of the American experience was so damaging. The impact is felt every single day today in a thousand ways."

Kerr explained to Goodwill the toughest part is shedding the "live your own life" mentality when a situation like those involving Arbery and Floyd occurs in order to help fight for justice.

Van Gundy said his involvement shows that effort can be made without taking on a leading role.

"I've actually done very little," Van Gundy told Yahoo Sports. "I don't really want to be out front, don't think I should be out front with this. I want to lend my name to supporting them as much as supporting the issues."

The Players Coalition was founded in 2017 by NFL players Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins.