Kyle Korver shared an op-ed he wrote for The Player’s Tribune titled “Privileged” on Monday. In the piece, the Jazz player spoke about racism in the NBA and how he was naïve about the strife that Black players go through on and off the court.
The NBA veteran detailed how he was on the wrong side of the argument when he found out Thabo Sefolosha, his current Jazz teammate and former Atlanta Hawks teammate, was assaulted by the NYPD during an arrest on April 8, 2015, outside of New York City’s 1 Oak nightclub. The Black Swiss baller suffered a broken fibula and ligament damage that sidelined him for the remainder of the season, according to ESPN.
“Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was?” Korver wrote. “About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??”
Korver, 38, revealed he felt as though he let Sefolosha and himself down because he was so quick to point the finger at his friend and teammate.
He continued, “Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.”
The small forward opened up about his White privilege when he discussed Russell Westbrook’s incident last month with a Utah Jazz fan in which the Oklahoma City star alleged that a now-banned fan yelled racially charged things at him.
Korver revealed that the Jazz team had a meeting about the Westbrook incident, and many of them shared similar stories of grief when dealing with the constant racism in the NBA. He said his teammates, including Sefolosha, appeared to be “embarrassed” and “tired” of the how little is done to protect them as players.
“This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others,” Korver wrote. “And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.”
He then acknowledged how being White in the NBA, 75 percent of whose players are of color, is a form of privilege.
“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,” he continued. “It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe ( Udoh)’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them. But I look like the other guy.”
He then called for his people to do more than be passive allies to the struggles of those from the Black community.
“I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable,” Korver wrote in conclusion. “We all have to hold each other accountable. …And it’s about understanding that Black Lives Matter, and movements like it, matter, because — well, let’s face it: I probably would have been safe on the street that one night in New York. And Thabo wasn’t. And I was safe on the court that one night in Utah. And Russell wasn’t.”
Several prominent African-American athletes, including LeBron James, applauded Korver for speaking out.
“Salute my brother!! Means a lot,” James tweeted. “And like you said I hope people listen, just open your ears and listen.”
Along with Korver’s article, The Players Tribune also published a video segment of him and his teammates speaking about racism in the league.
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.