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Lakers Inspired By Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Address To Continue Fight For Social Justice Reform
By Lauren A. Jones, Contributing Writer  
Published July 1, 2020

NBA icon Kareem Abdul-Jabbar held a forum for Lakers’ players to discuss social justice reform. (L.A. Sentinel)

On a Zoom call with reporters on Wednesday, Lakers’ point guard Alex Caruso, revealed his stance on civil unrest as the sole White player on the team’s roster. The third-year player was inspired by the learnings from a racial injustice and inequality forum hosted by Lakers’ legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the organizations’ players and staff in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

“I feel like it costs zero dollars and zero cents to be a good person…regardless of race, gender, age, political views,” Caruso started. “Going forward into how it relates to this team and the league, I’m 100 percent backing my Black teammates, Black coaches, anybody who I’ve never had the opportunity to live the life they have to experience the things they do. That’s part of my role as a White guy on the team and a White guy in the league is…being a crutch for them to lean on.”

Lakers’ general manager and president of basketball operations Rob Pelinka described the discussion with Abdul-Jabbar as “illuminating” during his conference call with reporters on Tuesday.

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As an organization, the Lakers have been at the forefront of implementing awareness and practices to discuss race issues including the hiring of Dr. Karida Brownon June 18 as the first-ever Director of Racial Equity and Action. Dr. Brown has acted as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in UCLA’s Department of African American Studies and the Department of Sociology with her Ph.D. in Sociology from Brown University, and an M.P.A. in Government Administration from the University of Pennsylvania. She also 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.”

LeBron James, the centerpiece of the Lakers’ team, launched More Than A Vote, an organization to help protect voting rights of Black people that includes players like Hawks’ All-Star Trae Young and WNBA star Skylar Diggins-Smith. As part of the effort, the Atlanta Hawks announced on Monday that the State Farm Arena will be converted into a polling location starting in late July for the November general election.

Several players have voiced concerns about the restart of the NBA season detracting from the momentum of the social justice reform sweeping the nation. One such player being Lakers’ Avery Bradley who opted out of playing in Orlando for personal reasons. Bradley helped found a coalition of players led by Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving to utilize their platforms to push for more social justice reform. Dwight Howard also shared his focus has shifted his focus to addressing issues bigger than basketball, to positively affect social change.

“So much stuff going on in our world, man, and I just feel like we don’t need to get distracted by anything,” Howard told CNN. “I would definitely want to play and win a championship, but I don’t want anything to distract us from really what’s going on in our world. It’s hurting. It’s hurting me. It’s hurting my family. It’s hurting all our families, and everybody is feeling it right now. I just think that we need to focus on what’s going on.”

Lakers’ head coach Frank Vogel said he is in full support of his players during his Wednesday media availability via Zoom.

“I, personally, am very eager to participate in this movement, in this fight against racism,” Vogel stated. “I know the league is going to leave no stone unturned in terms of ways that they can strengthen the message. We’re in a position right now, in our country, to see change and affect change like never before.”

The Lakers’ front office, coaches, current and former players, have displayed a commitment to increasing their impact off the court to continue the fight for social justice.

Categories: Basketball | Sports
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