New Orleans Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy knows fighting social injustice and inequality can lead to some uncomfortable conversations. Van Gundy — who has used to Twitter account to speak out and educate others on racial and social issues — spoke about the difficulty of discussing white privilege with other white people in an interview with Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.
The key, according to Van Gundy, is explaining that just because a white person has privilege doesn’t mean that person hasn’t worked hard. It’s about recognizing some don’t have that opportunity in the first place.
“I’ve had people say to me, ‘When my dad built his business, he started from nothing.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, but there were no laws, or societal norms working against him. He got a chance to pull himself up by the bootstrap, so to speak. Other people didn’t. They’re going to segregated schools.’ That’s the part that people miss. We’re not saying that there’s not a lot of people out there who’ve had to work their a– off to get where they are, and so when you tell them it’s white privilege, I get it. They’re going, ‘Whoa. Wait a minute. I worked my butt off for everything I had.’ Of course you did, nobody is taking that away from you. What we’re saying is some people aren’t even allowed that opportunity to work their a– off to get to where they are, and if they are, it’s only come about really recently.”
Van Gundy also admitted that just because he’s aware of the issues doesn’t mean he’s not privileged. “I’m a poster boy for white privilege. I’ve led a privileged life,” Van Gundy said.
Stan Van Gundy talks Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich
Van Gundy isn’t the only NBA head coach willing to speak out about injustice. Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and longtime San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich have tackled similar issues over the years. Van Gundy praised Kerr and Popovich for their ability to talk about politics, saying they do a good job making their point without alienating others.
“Steve and Pop do it really, really well because I think that they go after the leaders, and things like that. They don’t, at least explicitly, go after the people who maybe voted for those people. They try not to, in my opinion anyway, when I read their stuff, they try not to alienate the people out there while still feeling free to attack what they think is wrong. Both of them had been a lot better in that space at that than I have, so I’m trying to learn from them, and find my way there because … at the end of the day, I think we’re all trying to make a difference for people.”
A number of other topics are covered during the interview, including how Van Gundy started to talk about social justice issues, why he returned to coaching and what he thinks about Zion Williamson.
While there was some concern over whether Van Gundy would be allowed to continue tweeting about social justice and inequality when he agreed to coach the Pelicans, that won’t be the case. Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Van Gundy’s willingness to discuss those issues earned him respect among Pelicans players.
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