LOS ANGELES – The last few months in the United States have been incredibly important in the fight against racial injustice and for equality. That was one of the topics LA Clippers star Kawhi Leonard addressed in his first meeting with members of the media on Monday afternoon.
“I mean, for me and my teammates, pretty much everybody — we're black, so we've been dealing with this situation. We've been giving back to our communities. It's just broadcasting now since everybody has been in quarantine. So it's a big focal point on that when you're at home watching the news. But I'm just going to continue to do what I've been doing, giving back to my community, educating my community, and just keep going from there.”
The spotlight has been on local, state, and federal governments following the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of police officers. Protests broke out after a video surfaced on social media of a Minneapolis officer with a knee on the neck of an unarmed Floyd for eight minutes as he was telling the officer he couldn't breathe. Floyd eventually died, and that nation came together amid the coronavirus pandemic to march in the streets and demand justice not only for Floyd, but for so many of the African Americans who deal with racism on a daily basis.
“What's happened, what everybody has been seeing on the news, it's been like [that] for me,” Leonard continued. “I've been seeing those situations, so it's nothing new to me, and I'm still going to continue to help and educate people as well as my teammates.”
A few weeks ago, the NBA approved a list of messages players can have on the back of their jerseys to continue to bring awareness to social issues within the country. Kawhi Leonard declined to say what he'll have on the back of his jersey.
“It doesn't matter if we have a statement on the back of our jersey, it's about doing the work.”
Los Angeles Lakers' stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis also declined to put a message on the back of their jerseys, and many players stated their concern with the short, limited list. Still, the NBA allowing players to put messages on their jerseys is a step forward, Leonard's Clippers teammate Lou Williams said.
“That’s progression,” Williams said on a conference call. “I’m happy to know that I work for a company that stands alongside of the minorities that’s in this country and want to make a bold statement like that.
“Obviously they have a lot of sponsors and everything as far as sponsorship goes, and some people may not feel that way. But I thought it was important for the NBA to listen to the players and listen to our voices and put the things in motion that we felt strongly about and stand next to us with those issues, so I was really happy about that.”
Clippers guard Rodney McGruder said he'll have the word, ‘Peace' on the back of his jersey.
“I've chosen to go with, ‘peace,' and that's one thing we've always spoken for in our country is world peace, so that's one thing I'm going to use to make my statement during the restart.”
Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers' first chance to display their messages will be in their first scrimmage on July 22 against the Orlando Magic.