Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Berkeley's talking: Speaking out with Steve Kerr

When Berkeley talks / Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr
in conversation with UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks.

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is a vocal supporter for social activism as long as it comes from the heart. 

“In my mind, as long as the message is clear, I’m all for people speaking out against injustice no matter what form that takes,” said Kerr, during a recent Berkeley Talks lecture that my wife and I attended on the UC Berkeley campus. “If it’s nonviolent and leads to conversation, then I think that’s beautiful.” 

Golden Warriors head coach Steve Kerr comes from a
family of academics.
The 50-year-old Kerr, who comes from a family of academics, was the featured guest in a hour-long conversation with UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks at Zellerbach Hall last Wednesday. The Cal Performances event, which was very well attended and received by students and community, provided a lively forum for a far-reaching discussion that touched upon Kerr's leadership as coach of a world championship-caliber team, the role of sports in building community and identity, and Kerr’s own personal history and ties to the world of academia. The dialogue was engaging and the issues discussed were timely.

Kerr, who has a son and daughter attending UC Berkeley, addressed the subject of social activism and his openness for promoting conversation about it. I was particularly interested in hearing and learning about his thoughts on this matter:

"We talk about current events. We start practice (next) Tuesday. We will absolutely have this discussion (about Colin Kaepernick). We will defintely talk (next week) about the national anthem,” said Kerr.

(Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers football team, has been kneeling during the national anthem at his team’s games to protest racial injustice in America. Kaepernick, who is biracial and was adopted by white parents, he said he would not honor a song "nor show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.")

Steve Kerr / "People need to be more engaged and
active with what is happening around them."
Kerr added: "I'm not going to tell anyone what to do. Everybody gets to do whatever they want to do. But we need to know for each other if anyone is going to kneel or make a demonstration of any point or of any kind because, if so, it somewhat affects the guy next to you. Maybe good or maybe not, we don't know. It's something we have to talk about. I think it's great, I think the conversation is great. 

"People need to be more engaged and active with what is happening around them. I'm very proud, I think the NBA has been very progressive in terms of having these kinds of discussions and being at the forefront of the sports world when it comes to social activism."

I applaud Kerr for engaging his team to talk, whether it’s about basketball or social activism, and that he plans to support his team’s players in their views as long as their message on injustice is “clear.” Looking back, one of the best things that’s come out of the Colin Kaepernick issue is that it’s prompted people to talk about what our flag and national anthem means to us. That is a good thing.

"Let's protest in a non violent way, but it has to be powerful," said Kerr. "I've heard a lot of people say 'I agree with Kaepernick, but I would have done it a different way.' That's fair, but what is a different way? I don't know. What I do know is the only thing that really matters is that it's generating conversation in our country. ... Things do need to change.

“Nobody has to be right. Nobody has to be wrong,” said Kerr. “I would hope everyone would respect each other’s point of view. There are valid points of view on both sides.”

All photos: By Michael Dickens © 2016.

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