Los Angeles Laker LeBron James, who has used his public platform to speak out about social justice issues, was moved by his former Cleveland Cavaliers teammate Kyle Korver’s essay on white privilege.
In Korver’s first-person essay, “Privileged,” published in The Players Tribune on Monday, he opened up about the false arrest of former Atlanta Hawks teammate Thabo Sefolosha in New York in 2015.
James tweeted on Monday:
Salute my brother!! Means a lot. And like you said I hope people listen, just open your ears and listen. ??‼️‼️ https://t.co/qBrd2H27x0
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2019
“When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little,” Korver, currently a Utah Jazz player, wrote.
“When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story. You’d think. But nope.”
Sefolosha sued the New York City Police Department claiming false arrest, excessive force, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. In 2017, he settled a lawsuit with five NYPD police officers for $4 million.
Korver wrote that what happened to Sefolosha recently came to mind following an incident at a Jazz home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder a few weeks ago. Thunder star Russell Westbrook said a Utah Jazz fan in the crowd yelled “racial” and “inappropriate” comments toward him. Westbrook then threatened the man. The star player has made complaints about Jazz fans in the past.
“The incident struck a nerve with our team,” Korver wrote.
“In a closed-door meeting with the president of the Jazz the next day, my teammates shared stories of similar experiences they’d had — of feeling degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling.
“One of the guys in the meeting was Thabo — he’s my teammate in Utah now. I looked over at him, and remembered his night in NYC.”
“Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.”
In regard to the incident with Westbrook, the Jazz issued a lifetime ban to the fan involved. The organization also issued a retroactive ban to another fan who called Westbrook “boy” during the 2018 first-round playoff matchup between the Jazz and Thunder.
The Players’ Tribune released a roundtable video of Jazz teammates Korver, Ekpe Udoh, Thabo Sefolosha and Georges Niang discussing the Westbrook incident.
— The Players’ Tribune (@PlayersTribune) April 8, 2019
“Demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court,” Korver wrote in his essay.
“And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege.
“It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.”
Korver said that even though he commits to being an ally and “no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color,” he’s “in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it.”
He added, “Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.”