The Knicks celebrated the 155th anniversary of the official end of slavery by doing a really good thing.
Much like winning basketball games, when it comes to PR, the New York Knicks usually bring up the rear.
This has been driven home over the last several weeks, first by their refusal to issue a statement in the midst of nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, and then by the paucity of the words they finally did put out for public consumption.
Yesterday, when they and the Rangers hosted a Juneteenth Youth Symposium featuring Scott Perry, Allan Houston, former Ranger Anson Carter, Senator Jamaal Bailey and NHL Chief Marketing Officer Heidi Browning, it was a chance to make up ground and get an easy PR win. And if that was all yesterday was, I wouldn’t have taken the time to write about it today.
But it was so much more than that.
As I sat and listened to the conversation, I couldn’t help but be struck by the genuine passion that each of these voices brought to the table.
When Scott Perry talked about growing up in Detroit during race riots and having to watch military tanks roll down his block as he stood on his front lawn, it was hard not to be moved. “I grew up as a product of that type of tension,” Perry said as he reflected on the past while trying to make sense of the present, thinking about “how far we’ve come, [but] how far we’ve yet to go.”
Houston, a father of seven, spoke about how all parents need to treat the recent weeks as a call to action. “Are we modeling our own expectations?” he asked as he implored the audience that all of us, black or white, “have to have these conversations.”
As an educator (I used my official teacher email to get into the Zoom chat - thanks NYC DOE!), I can attest to the power of these sorts of talks. The school I teach at in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn was populated almost exclusively by black and brown children when I first arrived; now, you can often count the number of non-white faces on one hand in the average middle school classroom.
As a result, our administration has had to do a lot of work guiding our staff through these changes. It starts with being open and honest - something that yesterday’s panel certainly was.
At the end, each panelist gave advice to educators trying not only to make sense of what is happening around us but to use these events to spur thinking in the next generation of those who can enact real change. I thought Perry’s words here were most poignant: “Be comfortable in the uncomfortable.” In other words, pretending we live in a colorblind society, or that we ourselves are colorblind, isn’t the answer. Instead, we must confront the ills of society head on, even if does take teachers - especially white ones - out of their comfort zone.
All in all, yesterday was a day that every Knick fan should be not only proud of, but take inspiration from as well. The organization, just like our country, is far from perfect, but there are positive signs that progress is being made and good things are happening, both on and off the court.
Another head coaching candidate emerges…
Will Hardy, who looks like he should be wearing a peddler cap and tossing the paper onto my lawn from his bicycle, is the latest member of the Pop coaching tree to get an interview with the Knicks.
It’s another good sign, both because of where Hardy comes from and that they’re interviewing him in the first place. There is something that feels genuine about this coaching search, even despite the fact that almost all of these candidates are CAA clients, as Marc Berman reported yesterday. Overall, it’s good practice to keep an open mind.
(Feel free to remind me I said this when Thibs is announced as the new head coach three weeks from now)
New Podcast feat. Deadspin founder Will Leitch
Tweet of the Day
That’s it for this week! See everyone Monday and have a safe and happy weekend. #BlackLivesMatter