Over the last several weeks, the Los Angeles Lakers have made it clear that they will not just “stick to sports” right now.
You had LeBron James calling out Fox News host Laura Ingraham for her uniquely transparent brand of dog whistle racism and dropping a video on why he speaks up about issues that are important to him, Alex Caruso criticizing the president and using a pretty solid pun to explain why he’s going to use his platform to speak out when he wants to, and Danny Green joining a police brutality protest in Los Angeles.
In addition, the entire team used their social media accounts to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the police killing George Floyd, all while the Lakers organization encouraged players to use their voices for advocacy.
Particularly outspoken on social media has been third-year forward Kyle Kuzma, who has been using his Twitter and Instagram accounts to give his thoughts on systemic racism, Floyd’s death and a whole lot more over the last several weeks. On Tuesday morning, he shared more extensive thoughts in an essay on The Players’ Tribune, fittingly titled “Ain’t No Sticking to Sports.”
The whole essay is worth a read, with Kuzma discussing the prejudice he encountered as a biracial child at a mostly white school, being called the N-word, America’s history of racism and his thoughts on the police as someone whose grandmother worked was a lieutenant in Flint.
Particularly powerful, though, was Kuzma discussing the fear he still experiences today:
Even as an athlete, I’m still scared when I get pulled over. If I’m driving and I see a cop, I’m checking my rearview mirror for like the next five minutes.
That is the epitome of what this has done to us as black people, living in a racist society.
That’s what we have to fear: the people who are supposed to protect us.
And that fear didn’t come from nowhere.
And before anyone dismisses that fear, keep in mind that if Kuzma were assaulted by a police officer, he wouldn’t even be the first NBA player in the last several years for that to happen to. Thabo Sefolosha was wrongfully arrested and suffered a fracture fibula and ligament damage at the hands of New York police in 2015, later settling a lawsuit for $4 million. Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown is currently in the midst of a wrongful arrest civil rights lawsuit against Milwaukee police, who tased him in 2018 outside of a pharmacy.
Both men had done nothing wrong.
The point is, no black person, regardless of social status or actual wrongdoing, is safe from the systemic racism plaguing this country. It’s why Kuzma says the demonstrations and protests going on right now are so important, and why he wants to help keep that momentum going into November:
Every time in the past when a black person was killed, we’ve talked about how it’s not right and that black lives matter, and then everyone has just gone back to their regularly scheduled lives.
Shit has to be different this time.
For that to happen, we have to do two things at once — KEEP UP the noise. Keep protesting, marching. Keep demanding CHANGE in the STREETS.
But also demand that change on election day.
We have to vote out people that blindly support spending more on police departments than on healthcare and education. And we also have to vote out the people who aren’t making the change that we want fast enough.
So I’m doing something about it.
I’m launching a voting campaign that’s going to help get people’s eyes on where primaries and elections are being held in every state this year. I’m dropping something very soon.
Since his rookie season, Kuzma has gotten more and more outspoken on social issues, and his growth as a person has been inspiring to watch over the last several years. To that end, I cannot recommend his latest essay highly enough. It’s likely the most important thing any of us will read today.