Stan Van Gundy on Derek Chauvin ruling: ‘Justice was done, but it’s hard to celebrate’
The news gave the NBA community some relief.
A handful of NBA players and coaches spent the past year speaking out on systemic racism both with words and actions. So, Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash saw the potentially positive significance that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty for second-degree and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd.
“It is a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future that perhaps all the social justice movements – the NBA, WNBA and community at large are really making an impact whether it’s small and creating a tipping point or whether it’s large,” Nash said before Tuesday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans. “It gives hope that the voices of many are making change and we have a better future for our kids.”
The news also gave the NBA community some pause.
GEORGE FLOYD: Sports world came together in united front as we held our breath for Derek Chauvin verdict
“Justice was done, but it’s hard to celebrate,” Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said before Tuesday’s game against the Nets. “It’s hard to celebrate because it doesn’t bring back George Floyd. We had somebody needlessly killed right in front of us. It was right in front of all of us because we could see it on video. No verdict is going to change that.”
Floyd, a Black man, died after Chauvin, who is white, kneeled on his neck for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020. The incident was caught on cell phone video, which sparked nationwide protests surrounding systemic racism and police brutality. Some NBA players participated in those protests, spoke out on social media or started various initiatives aimed to address racial inequalities.
New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy was happy with the murder conviction of Derek Chauvin, but said it is still hard to celebrate. (Photo: Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports)
When the NBA resumed its season on a campus bubble last summer, players often spoke about Floyd’s killing as well as varying voting efforts aimed to improve voter turnout in the Black community.
“Will it change anything? There was a just verdict. But will it have enough larger implications?” Van Gundy asked rhetorically. “Will it force us or at least motivate us to explore better policing and solving the immense problems of racial justice? Will it do any of that? Will it move forward on any of that. Or is this just an isolated verdict on one where we had clear video evidence.”
Van Gundy then attempted to answer his own question after considering there have been other unarmed Black people have been killed or shot by police in the last year, including Jacob Blake and Daunte Wright. Recently, Georgia passed new voting laws that will disproportionally affect citizens of color.
“It’s so hard for me to find optimism in the midst all of this,” Van Gundy said. “We seem to be, at least in my opinion, to be going backwards on issues of racial equality and justice. We had a lot of years where we didn’t go fast enough. We never have in this country. But I thought we were at least moving in the right direction. I don’t see that now. I think we’re going in the other direction. I think there are people adamantly opposing racial justice that don’t want equality. I think the most graphic example of that is all the voting rights and voting suppression acts that have been coming up in all of these states that regardless of what anyone says is clearly aimed at people of color. So it’s hard for me to be optimistic.”
No wonder Nash described the ruling as “bittersweet.”
“It’s relieving because you don’t have a lot of confidence historically that the verdict would come down and that justice would be served,” Nash said. “I just hope this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm.”
What will it take for that to happen?
“My generation screwed it up. It’s up to the younger generation,” Van Gundy said. “That’s the only place I find hope, to be honest with you. When I get down, I need to look at my kids and look at athletes in their 20’s where they’re trying to be engaged. That’s where my hope comes from.”
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