Indiana Pacers coach Nate McMillan got real today in his statement about race relations and the murder of George Floyd.
In the past, there have been two types of statements from sports teams and leaders about societal issues. The first is pablum – tasteless, valueless, irrefutable nonsense. “Love thy neighbor” qualifies. Alabama football coach Nick Saban shared one of those yesterday. The second are heartfelt admissions of a problem with a vague call for solutions. Frank Reich and Tony Dungy gave us humanity in their messages of that type yesterday.
McMillan gave us our first look at a third type today – a scorched earth condemnation of a society that too often has briefly been brought to a boil over violence against unarmed black men without any subsequent systemic change.
We’ve seen moments of raw honesty when coaches are prompted by a question to strip bare their emotions to bring extreme heat against a person or group. I can never remember reading anything similar to McMillan’s message released by the Pacers today:
The recent killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, is nothing shy of inexcusable and my whole heart feels for his family in their difficult time of grief.
Unfortunately, this pain is far too common for the black community in America, the place we claim to be so great. Enough is enough.
What is so Great about oppression, pain, and suffering? What is so Great about hatred, violence, and racism? For as long as I can remember, the black community has had to piece itself back together time and time again through the agony of injustice. There is no place for racism. Violence is not the answer. It’s time for everyone to take a look in the mirror and take action to remove the divisive stigma that lingers over the nation.
America can and should live up to the standard of Great. We all can and should be proud to call ourselves Americans. A great America is not something people of color have ever known, and it’s time to change that. It will take the effort of everybody. No matter your color or complexion, religious beliefs, occupation, or age, you must know that YOU matter. Your voice matters. Your actions matter. There is a tremendous strength in numbers and we all must join together to create a united front for accountability, justice, and peace.
We need leadership that is for all people. We need leadership who will listen. We need leadership that cares. We need leadership that is inclusive. We need leadership with a heart.
For far too long the racism and flaws of the system have been ignored. In order for America to reach the status of great, we all must be better. We have to do our part to lift each other up. We must change our hearts. We must change our laws. We must create a systemic change.
I encourage you to be the change you want to see. Let’s make a new America our home and a place we can ALL be proud of.
The well-reasoned rage shared by McMillan is a needed dose of reality. Reading it might have brought you an uncomfortable moment or two, but the message is dead on accurate. Instead of talking about how great America has been and is – all of us need to take inventory of our shortcomings and address them – NOW.
America should not be a country of talkers, but of doers. Let’s be done with lip service designed to temporarily quell protests that evolve into riots. We need to deal with the societal and entrenched dismissal of some human lives as disposable and others as unworthy of respect.
McMillan’s statement, whether you agree with it or not, IS worthy of our respect, and his willingness to share it to be admired. The Pacers decision to release it on their letterhead is to be commended.
And if you don’t agree with it, you need to read it again – and again. If you still don’t agree with it, acknowledging you a part of the problem is your next step.
Then maybe we can finally get someplace in this fight for equality and mutual respect.