By Ken Reed
On Monday of this week, The Player’s Tribune published a compelling piece from Utah Jazz forward Kyle Korver entitled “Privileged.”
Korver’s article was sparked by a recent incident at a Jazz home game. The Jazz were playing against the Oklahoma City Thunder. During the game, the Thunder’s Russell Westbrook was the target of hateful, racially-charged comments from a fan near the floor.
Korver writes about how the incident struck a nerve with the entire team. The feeling in the Jazz locker room was that the overarching issue went well beyond a verbal spat between a fan and Westbrook. It was about “racism in America,” as Korver put it.
The article is compelling for a lot of reasons, but two stand out for me: 1) Korver’s soul-searching and vulnerability; and 2) His strong message to white people in general, and white athletes in particular, to move beyond simply being against racism to actually taking steps to do something about it.
Korver holds himself accountable. He spends some time explaining that while he’s always been against overt and institutional racism, he’s never actively done much about it.
The Westbrook incident spurred him to start asking himself some tough questions.
“I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do,” writes Korver. “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?”
Powerful questions indeed.
“I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable,” writes Korver.
“We all have to hold each other accountable. 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. … 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.”
In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a march for civil rights (in particular, voting rights) from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. The march was made up of 2,000 people, black and white. At one point, before the marchers reached Montgomery, a young white minister named James Reeb was beaten to death by those who opposed the march. Ultimately, nearly 50,000 supporters, black and white, met the marchers in Montgomery. President Lyndon B. Johnson went on national television to voice his support for the Selma protesters and to call for the passage of a new voting rights bill he was introducing in Congress. Congress passed it a few months later.
The point is, in 1965, when a significant number of white people of privilege moved from being against racism to actively joining their brothers and sisters of color in the fight against it, the country moved a little closer to its ideal of equality for all.
A similar movement needs to happen today. As Korver writes:
“I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong. … The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong. And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”
Thank you for the call to action Mr. Korver. Well done.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #30 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The State of College Athletics with Dr. David Ridpath: Problems and Potential Solutions – Ridpath is a sports administration professor at Ohio University and a long-time member of The Drake Group, a college sports reform think tank.
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Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman. We discuss the state of college athletics today.
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Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
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Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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