Numerous NBA players and several members of the Los Angeles Lakers — including Dwight Howard and Avery Bradley — have formed a coalition asking the NBA to show a real, tangible commitment to social justice before they resume the 2019-20 season.
The Lakers took a step forward on that front on Thursday, when the team announced it had hired Dr. Karida Brown as its new Director of Racial Equity & Action. The team says that Brown “will create a curriculum to help the Lakers staff enrich their knowledge on today’s most urgent topics, as well as helping to identify ways the team can be more active and efficient in creating change,” and provided even more information on her qualifications in their official press release:
Dr. Brown is a tenure-track Assistant Professor in both the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Sociology at UCLA. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University in 2016, and an M.P.A. in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania in 2011. She currently serves on the boards of The Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the Du Boisian Scholar Network.
“We are very happy to have Dr. Brown join the team,” said Lakers COO & President of Business Operations Tim Harris. “She will play a key role in implementing educational programming on race and racism for our employees and helping us focus on racial equity in our day-to-day functions, as well as empowering the organization to identify ways to be more active participants in affecting real change.”
An oral historian, Dr. Brown is a Fulbright Scholar, and her work has been supported by national foundations such as the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Hellman Fellows Fund. She is recognized for her work writing back into history the lives, stories and experiences of black people around the world. She is the author of two books, Gone Home: Race and Roots through Appalachia (UNC Press, 2018) and The Sociology of W.E.B. Du Bois: Racialized Modernity and the Global Color Line (co-authored with José Itzigsohn, NYU Press, 2020). Dr. Brown is working on her third book, Separate and Unequal, which focuses on the history of racially segregated education systems and its enduring legacies on racial inequality in present day education.
This is a start towards the kind of pledge that the players like Bradley and Kyrie Irving are looking for the league’s ownership groups to make before the players agree that resuming basketball is the best thing for them and the country as a whole.
And good on the Lakers for making this happen on their own, before any sort of league mandate. That’s the type of commitment to listening to what their players want that the team has stood for ever since Jeanie Buss took full control of the organization from her brother, and so while something like this isn’t completely surprising, it’s still encouraging to see them just as dedicated to excellence off the court as giving their players everything they need to be great on it. Especially in contrast to the discouraging report about the internal culture of the organization from around this same time last year, this is another great step in the right direction for L.A.