Warriors coach Steve Kerr, a vocal proponent of racial and social justice, criticized the NBA for not having enough Black head coaches in a league where nearly 75 percent of its players are black.
Kerr, speaking Wednesday during the taping of “Politics, Race, and the State of Play in our Nation” with fellow panelist W. Kamau Bell, a comedian and Emmy-winning host of CNN’s “United Shades of America,” opened up about how White privilege exists even in the progressive NBA.
“We’ve got to do better in the NBA. A few years ago, I think we had 14 Black head coaches. There are only six this year, maybe seven out of the 30?” said Kerr, who actually gave the league a little too much credit — currently there are just five Black coaches, with three teams still seeking a coach. “I think the NBA does a pretty good job but much like the rest of society, there are inherent advantages when you’re a White person.”
“It’s important that White people are aware of the lack of opportunity that a lot of Black people are facing, and we’ve got to address that.”
Bell, a Warriors fan who lives in Berkeley, still made a point of praising Kerr and his team for doing something about the league’s racial disparity among its non-players.
“I want to give Steve credit. Because one thing White people of privilege have to do is understand they have to open the door for people who do not look like them,” Bell said. “Yesterday, when I saw them with the hiring of Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa (in front office roles), it’s like ‘That’s the thing right there, White folks who are paying attention.’
“It’s not enough to read the books or say the things, that’s a step of action.”
Nonetheless, Kerr said he’s had to look in the mirror and realize he little he understood about the obstacles facing his friends and teammates who were black.
“My teammates have always been black from the time I was 13 and on. And yet, over the last few months especially, I’ve really become aware of how ignorant I’ve been to life for Black Americans,” Kerr said. “I’ve always sort of thought, ‘Well, I play with Black guys, these guys are my friends.. I think I know what their experience is.’
“I obviously don’t. That’s been pretty apparent for a lot of us who have sort of had this awakening during this movement.”
The wide-ranging conversation also touched on topics such as Kerr’s charmed life in the NBA as an eight-time champion, with moderator Dacher Kelter of Cal’s Greater Good Science Center asking Kerr what’s been his magic
“The magic is (to) hang around Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan and Steph Curry, and good things are gonna happen. It’s pretty simple,” Kerr said.
Both Kerr and Bell also spent a lot of time talking politics, especially stressing the importance of the upcoming election in November, and how every American needs to make their voice heard by simply voting.
Kerr said his role in activism comes from his former coach stressing to him he needed to speak his mind — even about touchy subjects such as politics.
“My coach, Gregg Popovich, taught me all my bad habits about saying bad things about (President) Trump,” Kerr cracked. “I learned from him, for sure. In all seriousness, he made me realize that as a coach you have a platform and, really a responsibility to speak your mind. ”
Kerr and Bell’s hour-long discussion, “Politics, Race, and the State of Play in our Nation,” will be released to the public on Oct. 4 as part of “Berkeley #Unbound,” a virtual mini-fest of other changemakers and luminaries, presented by the Bay Area Book Festival.
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