Kyle Korver, a White N.B.A. Player, Speaks Out on White Privilege

Kyle Korver, the veteran N.B.A. player, said he was embarrassed by some of his thoughts about race in the past and uncomfortable about the contradictions of being a white player in a largely black sport. And in an essay in The Players’ Tribune, he strongly urged action to redress racism around the N.B.A. and in the United States.

In the essay, titled “Privileged,” Korver, who plays for the Utah Jazz, recounted an incident from when he played for the Atlanta Hawks. After a teammate, Thabo Sefolosha, was injured and arrested in New York in 2015, Korver’s first reaction was, “What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back?” rather than concern about the injury or dismay over the arrest. “I sort of blamed Thabo,” he said.

Cringing at that thought today, Korver noted that as a white man, “I probably would’ve been safe on the street that one night in New York.”

In March, Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder had an altercation with a fan in Salt Lake City. Korver told a reporter at the time: “You know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.” But soon after, he heard the full story, that Westbrook heard the fan make “racial” remarks, as Westbrook put it. His teammates shared stories of similar experiences. “Guys were just sick and tired of it all,” he wrote.

His words resonated as a white player speaking on race, in a league with predominantly black athletes playing before predominantly white crowds.

He noted this position: “I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average N.B.A. game than I have with the players on the court.”

“I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100 percent stand with them. But I look like the other guy. And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.”

The essay drew positive reactions from the world of the N.B.A. and elsewhere.

“Salute my brother,” LeBron James said on Twitter. “Means a lot. And like you said, I hope people listen, just open your ears and listen.”

Korver, 38, has played for five N.B.A. teams over a career dating to 2003. At his peak, he was one of the game’s best shooters, especially 3-pointers. This season, he is averaging 9 points and 20 minutes a game with the Jazz.

His essay wrestles with systemic racism throughout America, and Korver said: “As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so. But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.”

“It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history … not some random divide.”

“I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong,” he said.

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