David Fizdale: White People Need to 'Stand with Us' to Combat Racial Injustice

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2020

Knicks head coach David Fizdale gestures in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Brooklyn Nets, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Nets win 103-101. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin).
Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

Former New York Knicks coach David Fizdale called on white people to stand alongside black people in the fight against police brutality and discrimination against African Americans in an op-ed that ran Tuesday on The Undefeated

"These issues are not going anywhere until all white people of conscience and/or influence stand with us, march with us, vote with us and kneel with us. Otherwise, hate and discrimination will continue to kneel on us," Fizdale wrote.

Fizdale opened the piece explaining that he and his wife will welcome their first child, a boy, this year. He said it's his responsibility to use his platform to speak against racial injustice so his son grows up in a better world.

"No one should have to live in fear of speaking out against injustice," Fizdale wrote. "We can't erase the past or the present, but it's our responsibility to shape the future for our people. Whether it's police brutality and the criminal justice system, health care and food discrimination, education and economic inequalities or gun violence, they need us. And we need to be able to lead our communities with class and dignity. More importantly, we need to be able to look our sons and daughters in the eyes with pride when they ask, 'Daddy, what did you do to help?'"

Fizdale wrote that he and many of his black colleagues fear speaking out on racial issues or protesting against inequality over the threat of losing their livelihoods. He wrote of the internal struggle he faced in potentially sharing the same fate as Colin Kaepernick, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and Muhammad Ali, who saw "their careers damaged for protesting injustice."

Kaepernick remains out of football nearly four years after beginning a peaceful protest over the same racial injustices that are being protested nationwide now. Ali was stripped of his heavyweight championship, went to jail and missed three years in the prime of his boxing career following his refusal to be inducted after being drafted during the Vietnam War. The NBA suspended and fined Abdul-Rauf in 1996 for refusing to stand during the national anthem. 

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Fizdale, a Los Angeles native, said Floyd's death brought back memories of the 1991 beating of Rodney King that led to riots in the city. He said a "chill" came over him watching the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck because he has been in similar situations in the past:

"It brought back all of the times that my basketball-loving friends and I had been pulled over by police for no clear reason. Far too often, I've had a gun pointed at the back of my head as I was kept on my knees in the street for what would seem like forever. Memories of cops squeezing our fingers to the brink of breaking and being handcuffed so tight that we would lose the feeling in our hands. If you complained or pleaded, you were resisting, which led to a baton to the back of your legs or the famous LAPD death choke that left black men gasping for air. So as I watched Floyd plead for his life, scream for his mother and repeatedly yell I can't breathe, an inexplicable chill came over me."

Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter Friday after days of protests in Minneapolis. Floyd's death has been ruled a homicide by two different pathologists. 

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