The most important moment from sports this week came from a basketball coach. It came from Steve Kerr of the Warriors, son of Malcolm Kerr, the president of the American University of Beirut in 1984 when he was shot dead by the militant group Islamic Jihad. Malcolm Kerr’s son was speaking to a different kind of terrorism this time, the American terrorism of gun violence, before the Warriors played the Mavs in the playoffs the other night.
Steve Kerr was responding, eloquently and passionately, to the slaughter of the most innocent school children in America, and sounding what America is supposed to sound like, even in the land of the free and the home of the gun.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, this is what Kerr said, word for word, the kid who was 19 years old when his father died across the world:
“I’m not going to talk about basketball. Nothing’s happened with our team in the last six hours. We’re going to start the same way tonight. Any basketball questions don’t matter. Since we left shootaround, 14 children were killed 400 miles from here. And a teacher. In the last 10 days, we’ve had elderly Black people killed in a supermarket in Buffalo, we’ve had Asian churchgoers killed in Southern California. Now we have children murdered at school.
“When are we going to do something? I’m tired. I’m so tired of getting up here and offering condolences to the devastated families that are out there. I’m so tired. Excuse me. I’m sorry. I’m tired of the moments of silence. Enough!
“There’s 50 senators right now who refuse to vote on HR8, which is a background check rule that the House passed a couple years ago. It’s been sitting there for two years. And there’s a reason they won’t vote on it: to hold onto power.
“So I ask you, Mitch McConnell, I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence and school shootings and supermarket shootings. I ask you: Are you going to put your own desire for power ahead of the lives of our children and our elderly and our churchgoers? Because that’s what it looks like. It’s what we do every week.
“So I’m fed up. I’ve had enough. We’re going to play the game tonight. But I want every person here, every person listening to this, to think about your own child or grandchild, or mother or father, sister, brother. How would you feel if this happened to you today?
“We can’t get number to this. We can’t sit here and just read about it and go, well, let’s have a moment of silence — yea, Go Dubs. C’mon, Mavs, let’s go. That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to go play a basketball game. Fifty senators in Washington are going to hold us hostage. Do you realize that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political party, want background checks — universal background checks? Ninety percent of us. We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to vote, despite what we, the American people, want.
“They won’t vote on it because they want to hold onto their own power. It’s pathetic! I’ve had enough!”
Maybe Kerr, a child of gun violence the way the siblings of the dead of Robb Elementary will always be children of gun violence, was just another American throwing rocks against the wall in the shadow of another school shooting, the kind of school shooting that is as much a symbol of this country now as the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument.
The reason is simple enough: Too much of this country is sick and stupid about guns, and we, unfortunately, have a lousy Congress with enough quisling Republicans too cowardly and consumed by their own ambition — and fealty — to the National Rifle Association to do anything about it.
At least Kerr said something the other day, even if his words inevitably will fall on deaf ears in Congress. We always want people from sports with a voice to stand up at an American moment like this. Kerr did. And Malcom Kerr would have been prouder, had he lived, about that than the championships Kerr has won as a player and as a coach.
I have made a statement this week. So did the Yankees and the Rays the other night, when they chose to use their social media platforms to try to raise awareness about gun violence for one night, and not baseball, even with the two teams playing a big game in St. Petersburg.
Here is what we read from the Yankees, who have 3.6 million Twitter followers:
“The devastating events that have taken place in Uvalde, Buffalo and countless other communities across our nation are tragedies that are intolerable.”
The Yankees didn’t act as if everything would have been different in Uvalde if there hadn’t been an unlocked door at the school, as Sen. Ted Cruz, another gun-loving politician with blood on his hands, did, ignoring the fact that Adam Lanza shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary less than two weeks before Christmas in 2012.
The Yankees weren’t like some of the idiots at Fox News acting as if armed guards would change everything at our school. Sure they would. Except that even when the Keystone Cops from Uvalde got inside Robb Elementary they waited and waited and waited to stop the carnage down the hall from them, which blew all to holy hell the NRA notion that all you need to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
And by the way, and so you know where we are in the country on the subject of guns, even after more children, this time in Uvalde, Texas, don’t make it home from school? Go look at some of the responses the Yankees got on Twitter the other night, from mouthbreathers seemingly outraged that their team wouldn’t stick to sports.
The Yankees didn’t stick to sports the other night. The Rays didn’t stick to sports. Here is something the Rays posted on their website:
“This cannot become normal. We cannot become number. We cannot look the other way.”
Gabe Kapler, also from San Francisco, the Giants manager, is not sticking to sports now that he has announced he won’t take the field for the national anthem until he feels better about the direction of the country. Steve Kerr certainly did not stick to sports, at another American moment when these phonies in the Congress offered thoughts and prayers to more victims, and wanted to talk more about an open door and a pathetically bad police response to what was happening inside that school than about the AR-15 in the hand of an 18-year-old kid, one whose purchase of nearly 400 rounds of ammunition sounded no alarms, raised no red flags.
They always want to talk about everything except the gun. But you always go back to the wisdom of the great Pete Hamill, who once asked how many home runs Babe Ruth hit without a bat. When you think about it, the only remarkable thing about Steve Kerr’s story is that his father was shot dead in a country other than this one.
Incidentally? If Kerr’s Warriors win another title, they officially become the Spurs of this era in the NBA.
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But, like, really loud destiny.
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