Even though it is 2019, racism still exists everywhere—even on national sports teams. It was this realization that prompted one long-time NBA player to pen a powerful essay acknowledging his own white privilege and advocating for change on and off the court.
Kyle Korver has been an NBA star for the past 15 years and currently plays for the Utah Jazz.
Korver has played for multiple teams including the Philadelphia 76ers, the Chicago Bulls, the Atlanta Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Utah Jazz.
Following a recent racially-motivated incident during a Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City game, Korver decided it was time to open up about his own white privilege in a powerful essay titled “Privileged.”
Korver began by talking about his regretful reaction to a teammate, Thabo Sefolosha, being brutalized by the police.
“When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little.
When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.
He then recounted the incident during the Oklahoma City game when a fan yelled racist remarks at the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook.
Russell Westbrook made a statement and did not take questions tonight. Here’s all of the statement I can fit into one Twitter vid: pic.twitter.com/EQA3A4jaQQ
— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) March 12, 2019
“Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.”
The 38-year-old athlete notes that simply being aware of one’s white privilege isn’t enough. There must be direct action in order for real change to happen.
“I realize that now. And maybe in years past, just realizing something would’ve felt like progress. But it’s NOT years past — it’s today. And I know I have to do better. So I’m trying to push myself further.
How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?”
And accountability is necessary.
“And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.
And I think the standard that we have to hold ourselves to, in this crucial moment….. it’s higher than it’s ever been. We have to be active. We have to be actively supporting the causes of those who’ve been marginalized — precisely because they’ve been marginalized.”
Korver proposed additional actions for his fellow whites, including acknowledging institutionalized racism.
“First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.
And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.
That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think ifwe’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.”
He ended his essay with one powerful line:
“Time for me to shut up and listen.”
Korver later shared the essay on Twitter, where it has since garnered over 200,000 likes and more than 6,000 comments.
I've been trying to write this for a while. https://t.co/Qkt8aoVtdE
— Kyle Korver (@KyleKorver) April 8, 2019
People applauded the NBA player’s powerful words.
I’m white. I’m conservative. I agree with Kyle that racism is far more than just the hateful guy screaming racial epithets. There is structural racism in America that needs to be fixed. A fix can be made when this stops being a political issue and we learn to be color blind.
— Bryan Duncan (@EyeOnUtah) April 8, 2019
Kyle Korver thank you for saying something many black people innately know and have screamed, marched, and died for but cannot translate to the untrained white ear who refuse to hear. May others follow your example to listen. 🙏🏽
— Exavier Pope (@exavierpope) April 8, 2019
What’s sad is as I read this, it resonated with me. Then thought, “man, the fact it had to come from a white man for it to really resonate is obviously part of the problem.” I’ve known racism still 100% exists, but don’t know how to end it. Listening will be part of the solution
— Andy McPhillips (@andymickp) April 8, 2019
Thank you, Kyle. As a fellow white guy, though one who isn’t quite as good at shooting threes, I loved your view and hope it spreads far and wide. #TeamIsEverything Thanks for not just shutting up and dribbling.
— BHodges🎙 (@LifeOnaPlate) April 8, 2019
You have written an excellent essay expressing what so many in America need to hear.
— Teresa Kaepernick (@B4IleaveU) April 8, 2019
I just, I’m blown away. I truly applaud you for the stand you’re taking here and join you in recognizing our role in recognizing our white privilege and our active role of listening to people color, our active role in holding other white people accountable for racism. Bravo.
— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) April 8, 2019
This is SO powerful.
Especially admitting his initial response to Thabo’s arrest, his realization that not everyone can “opt out,” and the demand that everyone know what he believes and stands for. That he will not be an assumed ally for racism.
— Sarah Spain (@SarahSpain) April 8, 2019
Fellow athletes were also eager to spread his message.
Salute my brother!! Means a lot. And like you said I hope people listen, just open your ears and listen. 🙏🏾‼️‼️ https://t.co/qBrd2H27x0
— LeBron James (@KingJames) April 8, 2019
… must read !! Thanks Kyle for holding me accountable. I stand right next to you in this important matter. Proud to be your teammate. Americans and all over the world, let’s treat each other with respect. No one is above no one. https://t.co/eBIsHsFnb0
— Ricky Rubio (@rickyrubio9) April 8, 2019
This is amazing!! I’m honored to have you as my teammate and my brother!! Folks please read and inform yourselves 💯🙏🏾 https://t.co/VLdX5dJWRq
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) April 8, 2019
Listening and educating yourself on racism issues in society today is the best way we can make a difference. https://t.co/isPiWdGEo0
— Héctor Bellerín (@HectorBellerin) April 8, 2019