Miami Heat players, including superstar Jimmy Butler, participated in an online town hall on Friday’s observance of Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the effective end of slavery, and shared experiences of racism.
The players discussed racism, social injustice and police brutality facing the black community during the town hall, with Butler sharing his own experience when he was 16-years old and waling out of a Walmart with his brother in Houston.
“A white man and his son, who is no older than maybe 6 — I’m walking with my brother, and we hear the kid turn around and say, ‘Hey, Dad, those are those n-words that you are telling me about,'” Butler said, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk.
“The kid doesn’t know any better. My initial reaction was to turn around and look at the father’s face. I’m 6-[foot]-6, and my brother is 6-[foot]-1, and he’s probably 6-foot, and yeah, he was intimidated by me. But the first thing that popped in my head was, ‘You had to [have] taught him that.’ [The kid] doesn’t know that. My daughter, I have to teach her that the stove is hot. You are choosing to teach your kid hate.
“It was so confusing to me because I was 16. … To me, that is what all of this stems from. Everybody is being taught this hate, and it is super hurtful. You know the difference between right and wrong. For that parent to teach his kid at that young of an age, there is no other word for it except for wrong. This is crazy. This is the world that we live in. Now is the time to change.”
The Zoom session was moderated by Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra,
Heat forward Meyers Leonard discusses white privilege and acknowledged that he benefited from white privilege.
“I was raised to know right from wrong,” Leonard said. “Period. Everything that has been going on for years has been wrong. … It’s hard to understand because I’m white. I have white privilege. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter if I grew up with nothing. I still have white privilege.”
Heat veteran point guard Goran Dragic, who is Slovenian, discussed how being from a different country made it difficult for him to speak on racism, and the history associated with it, in the United States, but stated the importance for him to teach himself and his children.
“When I was young, we had war. In our part of the world, it was more racism by religion,” Dragic said. “It’s crazy now that I’m here in the States, I need to teach my kids both ways. It doesn’t matter what religion, which country you are from or what kind of color you are.
“Right now, if I’m honest, I’m not comfortable with this meeting because I don’t know what to say because I’m coming from a different part of the world. Now I see around the world, there is a good thing because everybody is demonstrating. … I cannot imagine how you guys are feeling. Like Meyers said, I have white privilege. I don’t know. It’s really hard to talk right now, but at the same time, the only thing I can do is try to teach myself and try to teach my kids and learn as much as possible.”