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The Miami Heat gathered together virtually Friday for an online town hall discussion on racism in the U.S. as communities around the country observed Juneteenth.
According to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN, different members of the team took turns diving into their experiences with racism, social injustice, white privilege and police brutality. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra moderated the open forum.
“In many ways, this town hall is like our virtual team peaceful protest,” Spoelstra said, per Youngmisuk. “And we are protesting against systemic racism, against the social injustices, the social inequalities, in the cases of police brutality against the Black community that we see far too often.
“We are fed up with it just like everybody else. We want to see change. And we want to show full support of the Black Lives Matter movement as a team and organization. The time to be silent or sweeping these topics under the rug, those are long gone.”
Jimmy Butler was one of the players who spoke up, sharing a story from when he was 16 years old and walking out of a Walmart in Houston with his brother. He heard a child making racist remarks about him to his father.
“It was so confusing to me because I was 16,” Butler said. “… To me, that is what all of this stems from. Everybody is being taught this hate, and it is super hurtful. You know the difference between right and wrong. For that parent to teach his kid at that young of an age, there is no other word for it except for wrong. This is crazy, this is the world that we live in. Now is the time to change.”
Forward Meyers Leonard added that even though his parents instilled strong morals in him, he understands that he benefited from a system that gives white people a head start in life.
“I was raised to know right from wrong,” Leonard said. “Period. Everything that has been going on for years has been wrong. … It’s hard to understand because I’m white. I have white privilege. That is a fact. It doesn’t matter if I grew up with nothing. I still have white privilege.”
The Heat will continue to have these roundtable discussions and are reportedly working on creating initiatives toward voting awareness. Through it all, Butler emphasized the need for the team to stick together and remain steadfast in its mission.
“All of this hate,” Butler said, “like it or not, is kind of breeding more hate.”