Given the grind of an NBA regular season that is already physically and emotionally exhausting — even without being traded midyear — new Los Angeles Lakers guard Reggie Bullock surely would have been forgiven for wanting to take some time to himself before he and the rest of the purple and gold begin their desperate 25-game chase for a playoff spot.
Bullock even had plans to do so, according to Arash Markazi of the L.A. Times, but had a late change of heart because he knew he could make a difference at the NBA All-Star Weekend in his home state of North Carolina, all without touching a basketball:
Bullock, who grew up in Kinston, N.C., met and spoke with 25 LGBTQ youth and allies from Time Out Youth Center, a safe space for LGBTQ youth in the Charlotte area. Bullock has been an advocate in the LGBTQ community since 2014, when his transgender sister, Mia Henderson ... was stabbed to death.
“It was good for me to be able to be here with them and talk to them and hear their stories,” Bullock, 27, said. “They weren’t holding back on anything. It opened up my eyes to what they have to go through on a daily basis, because when you randomly walk past someone, you never what they’re going through. I’m trying to educate myself every day as a straight man on this community that I stand up for and support.”
Bullock’s advocacy for the LGBTQ community his sister was a part of has been well-chronicled, and in addition to the type of 3-point shooter they were searching for, the Lakers seem to have gotten a phenomenal person back in their deadline-week deal.
Joining the Lakers is also Bullock’s second time playing for a franchise in the Los Angeles area, and Markazi writes that “while the season is almost over and he will become a free agent this summer, (Bullock) hopes to make an impact in the LGBTQ community in Los Angeles” for as long as he’s a Laker:
“I’m definitely going to try to do some stuff in the community,” said Bullock, who’s in his sixth NBA season. “I would love to be a leader in the LGBT community in Los Angeles and be able to use my voice and platform to stand up for them.”
Bullock’s advocacy would surely help in Los Angeles, but him doing so during what has been an especially turbulent time for the LGBTQ community in his home state makes this above and beyond the type of volunteer work done by most professional athletes and celebrities.
The only reason the All-Star game was in North Carolina this weekend was because it had to be moved in 2017 due to HB2, better known as North Carolina’s controversial “bathroom bill,” which “required that people at a government-run facility must use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate, if the rooms in question are multiple-occupancy.”
HB2 bill has since been altered to remove the bathroom portion of it, which left the NBA comfortable enough to bring the All-Star game back to the state. Still, the changes won’t allow the state “to enact anti-discrimination policies until at least 2020,” and therefore weren’t enough for many LGBTQ advocacy groups like GLAAD, who said at the time that “this so-called ‘deal’ is politics at its worst and was only made as the state faced losing key NCAA events and further economic damage. What we witnessed was a last-minute idea thrown together with little thought of protecting transgender residents.”
Meanwhile, the ACLU said it was “disappointed the #NCGA just voted for a bill which fails to end LGBT discrimination in a move to put basketball over civil rights.”
Given that context, Bullock’s volunteer work comes at an incredibly turbulent time for the LGBTQ community, and should be applauded beyond the attention normally given to athletes and celebrities doing charitable work. This is clearly a cause close to Bullock, and it’s inspiring to see him standing up for what he believes in at a time when students like the ones he was meeting with need support most.
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