When the crowds marched past Mike Conley’s street last summer, protesting police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd killing, the Utah Jazz guard knew he had to talk about it with his 4-year-old son.
“He’s the super curious one and asks all the questions and wants to know why there are so many people in the streets, marching and holding up signs,” Conley said. “… As a father, a parent, you’re trying to do your best to shield them from the real world but at some point, you do have to have those talks and sit down and be honest and candid and explain what got us here.”
Education has been Conley’s tool of choice in the fight for racial equality in America, and on Friday the 33-year-old was honest and candid as he sat down with Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes, Chicago Sky guard Sydney Colson, and retired NBA player Etan Thomas for a discussion systemic racism and creating real change in our country.
Don’t miss today’s #BlackHistoryMonth Roundtable: The Movement for Racial Justice as @EtanThomas36 discusses confronting systemic racism and driving real change with @MCONLEY10 of the @utahjazz, @SacramentoKings‘ @hbarnes and @WNBA vet @SydJColson.https://t.co/UEYS4HR8v5
— NBA (@NBA) February 19, 2021
“I’ve had opportunities to speak to a lot of people who are from Utah and … they’re so in to trying to make change and so into trying to understand what we as black men and women, what our lives are like in America,” Conley said. “The last year or so was really eye-opening for them.”
Conley said coming from Memphis, where nearly 65 percent of residents are Black, to Salt Lake City, where less than 2 percent of people are Black, was eye-opening for himself.
But it has also been an opportunity to educate.
And while Conley continues to do that, he also stressed the responsibility white Americans have in educating themselves and each other.
“What Kyle Korver is doing is necessary,” Conley said. “It’s a responsibility that not only we have but him, as a white American, and every other white American, has to try to make change. For so long, I think it’s been on our shoulders as Black men and women to get ourselves out of this situation. I think with their help is the only way we can see change.
“I’m just very proud of those men and women like Kyle, and all the guys in our league, who have really stepped up and stepped out. However uncomfortable it may be, they’ve done the right thing in supporting something that’s truly going to matter and can help create change.”
Conley credited the NBA and WNBA with giving players a platform and resources to advocate for social justice. Conley has advocated for change in myriad ways, including working as the executive producer for a short film, “Two Distant Strangers,” that highlights issues of race in the country.
“Since George Floyd [was killed] last summer, I think we all felt a certain way,” Conley said. “We felt angry. We felt tired. Just really motivated to see change through. For me, a lot of it has been through education. … Putting out a film that highlights the millions of situations that Black men and women find themselves in with law enforcement that end up in violence unjustly, for me being a part of a film like that helps us as Black people control our narrative a little bit. And give you an idea, from our lens, the situations we find ourselves in and how we can change that.”
That change, Conley reiterated, can only come through people working together.
“We’re going to need everybody’s help to do that,” he said. “Not just the Black community.”