Utah Jazz Player Korver Says We're Responsible for Our Forefathers' Racism

Kyle Korver, a 38-year-old NBA player, attacked white privilege in a column on The Players Tribune, declaring whites are responsible for the racism of America's ancestors. Newsweek sports writer Dan Cancian reported on the story as well, adding that the veteran member of the Utah Jazz says his fellow caucasians are part of this systemic race problem.

The Players Tribune is a blog site featuring athletes as writers. Korver titled his guilt piece “Privileged.” The most remarkable comments he writes are these:

And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a ‘safe’ space for toxic behavior.

“As white people, are we guilty for the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

“But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.”

Fast forwarding from this country’s ancestors to today’s society, Korver writes it’s not good enough for us to passively tolerate, to blend in and opt out of what’s going on today. If that’s the best you can do it’s not good enough. “Not even close,” he says.

What’s going on today? “I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.” Korver also says, “This feels like a moment to draw a line in the sand,” and it’s “Time for me to shut up and listen.”

Korver is basing his story, in part, on an incident involving teammate and good friend Thabo Sefolosha in 2015. Korver said police officers broke Sefolosha’s leg, causing him to think it would wake up people a little. “When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.”

Korver accuses himself of white guilt for his first thought back then: “What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??

“Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.” Thabo had season-ending surgery and reached a settlement with the New York Police Department over the incident. Yet Korver could not shake his discomfort, of the blame he deserves.

In a game played in Salt Lake City, some Jazz fans said some ugly things to Russell Westbrook of the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The next day the Jazz had a team meeting, and African-American players talked about being the victims of racism. Though Korver story indicates he’d never directed racism at anyone, he again brought out his own guilt. 

“It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space. It was about racism in America,” Korver recalls thinking. He writes that if we’re being honest, “I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court. And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% 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.”

Korver confesses, “ … I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.”

Korver said he feels pressure “to hold my fellow white men accountable.” On many ways “the more dangerous form of racism” isn’t loud and stupid, “It’s the quiet and subtle kind. The kind that almost hides itself in plain view. It’s the person who does and says all the ‘right’ things in public, but wish people would stop making everything “about race” all the time.

Cancian writes of Korver, “The one-time NBA All-Star said that learning to identify social issues and educating people on the history of racism in the U.S. was crucial to bringing about a more modern and tolerant society.”

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