Karl-Anthony Towns weighs in on racism, Charlottesville and Trump

Former UK player Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to the media while in town for a youth basketball camp in Memorial Coliseum on July 23.
Former UK player Karl-Anthony Towns spoke to the media while in town for a youth basketball camp in Memorial Coliseum on July 23.

Normally an optimistic person, former University of Kentucky basketball star Karl-Anthony Towns has felt disappointed and defeated because of the displays of racism in the country.

In a post Friday on The Players’ Tribune, Towns said he’s not surprised that racism is “alive and kicking.”

The post sprang from the events in Charlottesville, Va., when protests organized by white supremacists and counter-protests turned violent.

Towns, who is in Lexington for Friday night’s UK Alumni Charity Series in Rupp Arena, said the events remain on his mind. His conversation with his driver to the airport earlier in the week only made him more passionate about the matter.

“When a man from Louisiana, which has one of the most racist histories in the country, says that ... 2017 reminds him of 1960, that’s a problem and it’s disheartening,” said Towns, now among the NBA’s best big men with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Writing on topics ranging from Philando Castile, who was shot to death by a police officer in Minneapolis, to Donald Trump, Towns’ theme throughout the article was how he hopes to have more conversations and discussions celebrating love and rejecting hate.

Towns wrote critically of Trump, saying the president was “given a layup” to denounce white supremacists, and “he couldn’t … and wouldn’t. He missed. … He missed badly.”

“It’s disheartening when our president doesn’t understand (that) his words carry a tremendous amount of weight,” Towns wrote. “It’s really hard to see our president refuse to stand up for what’s right — at a time when the country needs it.”

He said the events in Charlottesville can be an opportunity for people to talk with each other more honestly and to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

He also said he is disheartened about the racism in the country, but he remains optimistic.

“Like we say (in Lexington), we ‘bleed blue.’ We come together over basketball,” Towns wrote. “Lexington is not perfect. … It is part of our country’s history as well, … but the sense of community gives me hope. My hope is that everyone of all races can feel this way about where they call home.”

WARNING: This video contains graphic content. Clashes between protesters and counterprotesters broke out in Charlottesville, Va. even after a white nationalist rally called 'Unite the Right' was cancelled. At one point a car plowed into a crowd of

Karl-Anthony Towns reflects on the 2014-15 Kentucky Wildcats near-perfect season.

Mike Stunson: 859-231-1324, @mike_stunson

More from Karl-Anthony Towns’ story for The Players’ Tribune:

▪  “Let’s start with the facts: Charlottesville was not only a sign that racism is still alive, but also a showing of the lack of love and respect humanity has for each other.”

▪  “Personally, I’ve been disappointed. Not sad, but disappointed. I’ve even been kind of … defeated. Not hopeless — I’ve got hope. But just exhausted. If you’re a minority in America, just watching the news can be exhausting. Normally, I’m an optimistic guy. What you see is what you get. But I guess these emotions can creep up on you.”

▪  “In Charlottesville, I think we saw a more visible form of racism. We don’t see it so public very often, but that kind of hate is sadly … kind of normal. Obviously I don’t mean normal as in acceptable. It’s not. It’s evil.”

▪  “I know that some people will downplay what I’m saying because I play in the NBA. They’ll say “stick to sports” and woo-woo-woo. But I believe the culture is changing when it comes to athletes speaking out on the things that really matter. Basketball is what I do for a living, not who I am as a man. So as athletes we have a huge opportunity to support what we think is right and to speak up about what we think is wrong.”

▪  “I want to live my life with love but also with action. I hope to have more conversations and discussions about how celebrate love and reject the type of hate we saw in Charlottesville. We have to love each other more, and we have to show it more.”

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader