Former University of Kentucky star Anthony Davis, who is preparing for his sixth NBA season, talked at length with ESPN reporter Marty Smith about race relations in America.
Here’s what the New Orleans Pelicans forward/center had to say:
Marty Smith: We’re seeing everything that’s going on in the NFL. You guys just had media day recently. What’s the dialogue in the locker room?
Anthony Davis: That’s the big thing going on right now. But I think people are starting to lose sight of what Colin Kaepernick actually was standing for.
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Smith: Which was what?
Davis: All the stuff that’s going on with racial profiling. Stuff in communities with Black Lives Matter. Division in the communities. Stuff like that. I think, now it veered towards more of an American flag thing. “Oh, these guys don’t like America. They disrespect the flag. They disrespect the military, the Army. We had a meeting, actually, the other day with an ex-Navy Seal. He’s doing a lot of stuff with the Pelicans. He told us straight up. He said, “I did everything so you guys can do whatever you guys want to do. I fought for you guys to go out there and have the right to do that. We’re still discussing as a team what we’re going to do (for the national anthem). We haven’t figured that out as a team, but whatever we decide to do we’re going to do it one.”
Smith: What’s going on right now in the country right now is really troubling, because I know there’s still so much good in people. And we’re losing sight of that. And I wonder, you’re a 24-, 25-year-old African-American man. I’m a 40-year-old white dude. What has to happen for me to see your world?
Davis: You just want people to understand. Understand where African-Americans are coming from. Everybody’s not this African-American that you think they are because of what the world portrays African-Americans to be. We just want the entire world to understand where we’re coming from. And I think once people start to realize that, the world can become a better place again.
Smith: So, explain to me. Where are you coming from?
Davis: Just treat everybody fairly. Just treat us like you would any other person, any other race. Treat us fairly. Everybody just wants to be unified, everybody wants their voices to be heard.
Smith: You think this is working?
Davis: I think it is. Last year with the Pelicans, we had a lot of community leaders in. Law enforcement come in. And we sat at roundtables throughout the facility and just talked. Brought inner-city kids in and just talked.
Smith: How’d those conversations go?
Davis: It was amazing. We tried to figure out solutions. We let the inner-city kids come. I remember one young lady said that she watched the police abuse her parents so many times, to the point where she always felt every police officer was bad because of what she (had) seen.
Smith: How do the police in the room react?
Davis: They listened. I’m not sure about everybody around, but the table I was at, I can’t remember her name, but she listened. She was totally understanding. And that’s what I was saying about understanding, she understood. “OK, I understand why you believe this way, but let me tell you where I’m coming from as a police officer and what we think.”
Smith: That’s so important, Anthony.
Davis: She said, “if you guys cooperate with us, we’ll cooperate with you guys. Our intention is never to hurt anyone. We understand people have kids, and wives, and families to go home to. Just like we do.” I think that was big for that kid to hear what the officer had to say and what their mindset is approaching the situation. The young lady understood. And then we started talking about solutions.
Smith: If we could all pause and try to take a moment and look through another man’s lens, it would really be beneficial because we would then have empathy for what that person sees.
Davis: For sure.
Smith: What’s the difficulty in that, though? Because we’re all different. Your upbringing was different from mine, different from everyone’s. How would you describe that difficulty?
Davis: For me, I grew up in a neighborhood where, 100-percent black community. Violence. Gangs. You name it. I’ve seen it all. So a lot of times, that’s where that racial profiling comes from, that discrimination comes from. You see stuff like that in black neighborhoods that you probably won’t see in white neighborhoods, and so you figure all black people are that way. Which we’re not. I’m not a gangbanger. I’m not any of that. I’m a black man who loves to play basketball. But like you said, when you look through another person’s eyes, now you don’t have to react a certain way or act towards a certain person because you understand where they’re coming from and you can see ... basically you can walk in their shoes and see what’s going on in their lives. But when you don’t do that, then it makes the world so difficult.
Smith: It goes back to trying to see someone else’s perspective. It all goes back to that.
Davis: Exactly. Once you do that. I like to hear where everybody’s coming from. I like to understand why everybody thinks the way they think. You just got to be real with them. You just got to tell them how you feel. ’Cause if you try to sugarcoat it, they don’t understand.