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George Floyd protests bring NBA coaches off the bench — as agents of change

George Floyd protests bring NBA coaches off the bench — as agents of change
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Nick Nurse knows full well how unique his position his, how important it is, how it can resonate with so many people at so many levels.

He can reach Raptors fans, his players, his staff and the support workers around him. And like all NBA coaches in these troubled and troubling times, he’s figuring out how best to take advantage of his place in the sporting world.

Now he and his colleagues — all 30 head coaches, countless assistants and former coaches — are devising plans to deliver important messages to society.

are the impetus behind a decision by the NBA Coaches Association to strike a committee to foster better race relations, to help soothe the divisions ravaging society after the death of George Floyd in a confrontation with a Minneapolis police officer, now charged with murder.

The coaches have seen all the protests that have turned too often into riots. They have heard the words of players pleading for an end to discrimination and police violence, and they need to add their actions and words to an ever-growing cause.

“I certainly understand, and even can applaud, people that come out and make statements, but we feel like there’s a lot of statements out there and what we really need is a plan of action,” Nurse said in an interview Tuesday. “What are we going to do that can make a difference, and communicating is where it starts.”

The committee reportedly comprises Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State’s Steve Kerr, Lloyd Pierce of the Atlanta Hawks, J.B. Bickerstaff of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Quin Snyder of the Utah Jazz and former coaches Stan Van Gundy and David Fizdale. It was to meet Tuesday to further discuss ways to take action in all of the league’s 30 cities.

“The events of the past few weeks — police brutality, racial profiling and the weaponization of racism — are shameful, inhumane and intolerable,” a statement from the coaches organization said. “As a diverse group of leaders, we have a responsibility to stand up and speak out for those who don’t have a voice — and to stand up and speak out for those who don’t feel it is safe to do so.

“Witnessing the murder of George Floyd in cold blood and in broad daylight has traumatized our nation, but the reality is that African-Americans are targeted and victimized on a daily basis. As NBA coaches, we cannot treat this as an isolated incident of outrage.”

Figuring out what to do, and how, is the urgent matter. It has become a point of discussion in the daily meetings that Nurse holds with his staff.

“We’re on a call every day now trying to just talk about ideas, talk about ways we can make a difference and what can we do?” Nurse said. “How can we use this platform for some change? How can we use this platform for the greater good? What can we do now, and then what can we do that’s lasting when we get back to our real platform, when we get back to playing … when we get back to having people in the arenas, when we get back to being in the communities.

“Hopefully that can be soon, because we need to be able to do that stuff.”

Coaches are in the unique position where not only can they deliver messages through their actions and interactions with fans, but they can urge players to do the same. It is something Nurse has already mentioned to the Raptors: the need to take advantage of their position to lead.
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