Martin Luther King Rumors

Some of Isiah Thomas’ earliest memories are of he and his family protesting systemic racism. Thomas’ mother, Mary Thomas, was an activist on Chicago’s West Side, working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson and Black Panther chairman Fred Hampton. So the entire Thomas family was active in protests and demonstrations against inequality in Chicago. “Activism was the family business. We did not have babysitters. So every protest, march, rally, riot, mom was like, ‘Alright ya’ll, let’s go,'” Thomas says. “So we went everywhere (to join protests) together as a family.”
In addition, the Atlanta Hawks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Denver Nuggets, Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors, Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz are all recognizing Juneteenth in some fashion. The Wizards and Washington Mystics are expected to walk from the Capital One Arena in Washington to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on Friday morning. The Knicks joined forces with the New York Rangers to host an MLK youth panel on Thursday with former Knicks star Allan Houston and general manager Scott Perry.
As part of collective efforts to learn more about the history of race in America, Jazz employees and the NBA family will have access on Friday to watch “John Lewis: Good Trouble,” the new Magnolia Pictures, Participant, and Color Farm Media film about the life and legacy of John Lewis. The movie chronicles Lewis’ 60-plus years of social activism and legislative action on civil rights, voting rights, gun control, health-care reform and immigration. Using present-day interviews with Lewis, now 80, the film explores his childhood experiences, his inspiring family and his fateful meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1957.
Wayne Embry remembers the shock and sorrow that swept through the Boston Celtics when Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated hours before Game 1 of the 1968 Eastern Division finals. That April 5 game in Philadelphia, a day after King’s death, almost didn’t happen. “Our immediate reaction was we will not play the game,” said Embry, who spent the day of the game wrestling with his grief in the hotel room he shared with Don Nelson. “Players were just shaken, all the emotions you can probably think of. We just thought ‘We will not play the game.'” Eight of the game’s 10 starters were Black, including Bill Russell, one of the most vocal athletes during the civil rights movement.
Josh Okogie: I think the biggest thing I can take away from this whole thing is just what a different time it is. I’m 21. I haven’t been around long, but it’s the first time that I’ve seen everybody, in terms of different races, coming together to fight for Black people. I know when Martin Luther King marched, there were white people and white Americans and different races marching with them. But I go out now and look at some of these protests and there are more white people than Black people. I’ve never seen that before. When I went to the memorial and when Reverend Al Sharpton spoke, he said something to me as well. He even alluded to it. He said: this is a different time. He said back in the day when he used to March, he would see a white counterpart come up to him, use the n-word, and tell him to go home. He was saying that last week he was at the airport talking to somebody, and a young white lady grabbed his suit andtold him no justice, no peace. That moment in itselftold him that it’s a different time, and it’s the time for a change. The one thing I take away from this is that we have people now that are fighting for us.
The Memphis Grizzlies stand squarely in opposition to racism and injustice. We condemn all acts of racial violence. It is engrained in our culture and part of our ethos, and we are going to build on established initiatives in our community. With Memphis’s history as a backdrop, the Grizzlies have been the host and facilitator of some powerful discussions on the Intersection of Race and Sport in conjunction with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration Game. In the coming days, we will be collating and posting videos from the most recent forums and symposiums. Created in partnership with the National Civil Rights Museum, we hope making these meaningful sessions available will serve as a way to further educate and inform through the words and experiences of our Sports Legacy Award recipients and members of the NBA family. We will also will be working with the National Civil Rights Museum to facilitate and amplify conversations specific to this moment in time.
“The policeman didn’t do nothing, continued to press,” he said. “That’s what Martin Luther King said that our lives begin to end the day we’re becoming silenced about the things that matter. Our lives will mean nothing if I don’t do nothing of the things that’s happening in front of me. You see someone be killed and you don’t speak out about the injustice, then that’s the end of your life because you’re going to be next.”
The Trail Blazers and their head coach, Terry Stotts, have both donated to the museum. Portland has taken its entire team to the museum twice during Stotts’ tenure, in 2014 and in 2017. On the occasions when the full team couldn’t make it, the Blazers made a point to have an assistant coach or a staff member take the rookies. “I think it’s something that every person, regardless, should see,” Stotts told The Athletic in a phone interview. “It’s really important for our history. The way I look at it, some of it is very difficult to get a hold of. Some of the things that were done in our history are not things to be proud of. Kind of an ugly truth at times — but also, the way that African Americans have overcome some of the hurdles that they’ve faced in the history of our country. What Martin Luther King and many others were able to do is something that everyone should know about and everyone should admire.”
“It’s an important museum in our country, and obviously we have a lot of young people involved, but supporting something like the Civil Rights Museum is important for all Americans,” Stotts said. “When you have the opportunity to do something like that, you want to take advantage of it.” Several NBA coaches, current and former, promote the museum with pride. Suns coach Monty Williams wore a National Civil Rights Museum hoodie as he addressed the media before his team played the Grizzlies in Memphis on Jan. 26. Gentry toured the museum with the Pelicans a day before this year’s MLK game and praised his team’s player program staff for setting up the tour. They went to the museum within 20 minutes of landing in Memphis, he said.
Sixers forward Mike Scott echoed Harris’ sentiments about how special it is to play on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “He did so much for all the races, trying to bring everybody together, a real positive person in our history and it feels good to play on that day,” Scott said before Saturday’s game. “Sharing a court of all different races, it doesn’t matter who you are, it is bringing everybody together.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The time has come for Americans to defend the principles of the Constitution by stomping on the brakes of that DeLorean. For now, one of the best ways to do that is through boycotting the offending states. Boycotts cause hardships to the innocent as well as the guilty. That’s the whole point. Hardships motivate the self-righteous leaders to face the consequences of their political greed. A boycott’s success depends on the commitment of those seeking change to endure suffering. Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1955 kicked off the Montgomery Bus Boycott in Alabama that lasted a year and led to great hardships for whites and blacks. One of the boycott’s leaders, 26-year-old Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., had his home firebombed. The bus company suffered financial setbacks that affected its employees and other businesses. The black boycotters, who were 70 percent of the buses’ ridership, also suffered. For a year, they walked or carpooled until they were triumphant.
The Atlanta Hawks MLK Holiday weekend events culminated with their annual MLK game and celebration. At today’s game vs. Orlando, the in-game entertainment featured a special version of the starting lineups sung by the Contagious Choir of dReam Center Church of Atlanta led by RCA Inspiration artist Bishop William Murphy as well as three performances at center court from Gospel artist Koryn Hawthorne. Prior to the game, the team hosted 30 Brown Middle School students from the College For Every Student (CFES) Brilliant Pathways Mentoring program for the Hawks’ Dream Day youth seminar. The CFES Brilliant Pathways Scholars, who have been a part of a unique mentoring partnership with Hawks employees since August 2017, started their day listening to remarks from a variety of speakers including Melissa Pierce, wife of Hawks Head Coach Lloyd Pierce, Roshown McLeod, Hawks alum, Renee Montgomery, Atlanta Dream guard, and Scott Pioli, Atlanta Falcons Assistant General Manager.
Jazz TV analyst Thurl Bailey was just a small child in 1963 when his parents left him and his siblings with a babysitter so that they could hear Dr. King speak on the National Mall. Still, Bailey would feel King’s impact. “Over the years, they helped me learn more about who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was,” Bailey said. Bailey still has memories of the early days of desegregation in U.S. schools. By the time he graduated high school, he had become the first black student body president the school had ever had. “That time of change and that fight for equality, those were the things Dr. Martin Luther King fought for,” Bailey said.
Enes Kanter has spent years – and most of last week – speaking on the injustices in his home country of Turkey. On Monday, he’ll be playing on MLK Day and honoring America’s most famous civil rights leader. The meaning isn’t lost on Kanter. “Of course man, it means a lot. Everybody, whoever fights for freedom, if you’re fighting for democracy or human rights. It shows a lot,” said the NBA’s most politically-charged player. “So it will definitely be a blessing to have that day and play that day. So it will be an honor to go out there and wear this (Martin Luther King Jr.) t-shirt and play because he fought for something very important.”
Kanter is looking forward to being at the Garden Monday for the MLK Day game against Oklahoma City. “It means a lot,” Kanter said. “Whoever fights for freedom, whoever fights for democracy or civil rights, it just shows a lot. So it will definitely be a blessing to have that day and play that day. It’ll be an honor just to go out there and wear this T-shirt and just go out there and just play, because he fought for something very important.”
“Coming from a Caucasian mother and African-American father, nobody else symbolizes everything I’ve gone through, what my family has gone through, what black and white people in general who have been together have been through more than Martin,” Rivers said. “I just thought he was the only person fitting to have tattooed on me other than Jesus. I don’t want to repeat the things I heard growing up because I don’t want to shed light on ignorance.”
Austin Rivers: “My parents had to go through much worse dating in the era they did — a white woman dating a black guy when my mom was in college. We had people in the KKK come burn our house down in San Antonio. I don’t like to talk about this. I was 4 years old. I remember what the house looked like. I remember my mom … There’s been a lot of things happen to my family, a lot of things happen to my mom and dad, specifically. It means a lot more than people think it means. I don’t just have Martin Luther King on my leg for no reason.”

One day, he walked into a tattoo parlor and got a Martin Luther King Jr. tattoo inscribed onto his chest. In thick, black handwriting, it reads: ‘The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.’ “It’s a story to tell, a memory of the time I was going through, something that reminds me of who I am,” he says now.
Starting with Martin Luther King Day and coinciding with Black History Month, players and companies honor the past and create dialogue about the future through footwear. “I just think it’s more of a paying homage to people that paved the way before me,” Warriors forward Kevin Durant said. “It’s much more than just shoes. It’s more so of a memorial more than anything.”
Lou Williams was proud to be the voice for the Clippers on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the player who acknowledged the slain civil rights activist in front of a Staples Center crowd before a game against Houston. His teammates beamed as the reticent Williams spoke, all of them happy basketball fans got to hear a proud man deliver a message of unity. The same message that the 6-foot-1 guard has often conveyed to the Clippers during their troublesome season. “Obviously it means a lot, especially with the times now,” said Williams, who played at South Gwinnett High in Snellville, Ga. “People always say history repeats itself. You kind of have an opportunity to live through some of the language and hate that your parents and your grandparents lived through. It’s not as severe, obviously, but you get a taste of it. “So, this year, out of a lot of years in my career, it was important to just briefly say something to the crowd.”
Malone framed MLK Day more as a pressing, ongoing argument than a remembrance. “Especially in the current climate, it’s that much more important,” Malone said as the Nuggets wound down a shootaround at their Pepsi Center practice court. “When you have a president making some of the comments that he has made, it’s so important to remember and honor the legacy of Dr. King and what his message was. Simple, but powerful. Fight for equality, fight for the respect of everybody. White, black, male, female. Doesn’t matter.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich became emotional Monday as he recalled where he was April 4, 1968 when the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. “I can remember sitting in a room with other second classmen, juniors, I should say, (at the Air Force Academy), and it was just disbelief more than anything, especially given the speech he had already given,” Popovich said. As he continued, Popovich did so in a halting voice. “It was a silence, just silence. Nobody could speak,” he said. “That’s what I remember most.”
The Rosa Parks Award was established in 1992 in honor of the civil rights icon and annually honors women in Utah who help “Keep the Dream Alive.” Miller supports various charitable, education and humanitarian causes through the Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Foundation where she routinely volunteers her free time for those in need.
Warriors forward David West recently spoke out over Trump reportedly using disparaging remarks about Haiti and various African nations in a meeting about immigration policy. How did we get to this point? “Oh man, are we really going to ask this at shootaround?” Kerr said with a smile. Kerr asked, “Do you have two hours?” before noting “there’s a book to be written” titled “How We Got Here.” And, Kerr added, “there’s a lot of chapters.”
“I do think social media has something to do with that,” Kerr said. “I really do. There’s so much anger on social media and there’s such a forum now for everybody to just display this anger without repercussion. Just sit behind your keyboard and tell everybody whatever vulgar and profane thing you want to say. You’re free from repercussion, and, yet, you’re sending this anger and vile out into the atmosphere. There’s a lot of that is included in what’s happening right now. Then there are those that express that vile openly without thought or repercussion.”
“The state of racism will never die, but what we cannot do is allow it to conquer us as people,” James said after Cavs shootaround in preparation for their NBA Finals rematch with the Golden State Warriors on Monday. “We can’t allow it to divide us. … The guy in control has given people and racism, and negative racism, an opportunity to be out and outspoken without fear. And that’s the fearful thing for us because it’s with you, and it’s around every day, but he’s allowed people to come out and just feel confident about doing negative things. … We can’t allow that to stop us from continuing to be together and preach the right word of livin’ and lovin’ and laughin’ and things of that nature. Because would we want to live anywhere else? I don’t think so. We love this place.”
2 years ago via ESPN
“You always hear people saying, ‘risking their life,'” James said. “He actually gave up his life for the betterment of all of us to be able to live in a free world and for us to be able to have a voice, for us to go out and be free no matter your skin color, no matter who you are, no matter the height and size and the weight or whatever the case may be, wherever you are, he had a vision and he took a bullet for all of us. Literally. In the rawest form that you could say that. He literally took a bullet for us. And for us to stand here even though we’re trying to be divided right now by somebody, today is a great day for people to realize how America was built and how we all have to stand united in order to be at one.”
2 years ago via ESPN
Tarik Black: I have a lot of fond memories of my adventures volunteering for the museum for its various events. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela and Dr. Paul Rusesabagina at the annual Freedom Awards (an awards gala the museum has every year to celebrate national and international touchstones of philanthropy and people who fight against social injustice). When I was 12 years old or so, I was attending the Freedom Awards as an aspiring athlete watching Magic Johnson speak about his works in giving back. He spoke of his basketball legacy as a vehicle and platform to reach those who are in need. He told of how basketball did not define him but enabled his greater calling of philanthropy. That inspired me so much and has been my creed since I’ve flourished in basketball.
But we were all here, in Memphis, to help commemorate King’s birthday this morning, and to mark the beginning of events in Memphis marking the 50 years that have passed since the assassination. (“Anniversary” does not seem appropriate here.) We were here because the Grizzlies play here every January 15th, the game only a part of days of events and symposiums throughout the city that celebrate King’s life and look to find modern meaning in his legacy. “This is our opening night, Christmas Day, all wrapped up into one when it comes to the importance of the game to our organization,” Grizzlies President Jason Wexler said Saturday.
“We’re acutely aware of our history in this city,” Wexler said. “FedEx Forum, to me, is the greatest address in sports. Our address is 191 Beale Street, and our boundaries are Beale Street (where the blues took hold as an iconic American music institution), B.B. King Boulevard, Martin Luther King Avenue and Church park, named for Robert Church, who was the first African-American millionaire, post-Civil War. And across the street from us is Clayborn Temple.”
Van Gundy: Sadly, though, I think the 50th anniversary of his death finds us going backwards on the issue of racial equality. The Voting Rights Act has been largely dismantled. Men of color, and even boys of color, face systemic inequality in the justice system, and we used the war on drugs to lock up a generation of black men. Affirmative action is being torn down. Police are killing men like a modern-day Bull Connor, and economic equality is headed in the wrong direction.
Gregg Popovich: To say it’s been 50 years … and you say, ‘How much progress has been made?’ You say, ‘Yes and no.’ And it’s a hell of a discussion, and you can fight back and forth as to what has been gained and what has not been gained. And in today’s environment really question where are we now, where are we going and what do we need to do.
Wilkens was in the military, something he says few people actually know. He went to Providence College and was in the Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) for four years. When he graduated, Wilkens was a second lieutenant. He went on to be stationed at Fort Lee in Virginia. And, in terms of players kneeling for the flag, he doesn’t see it as disrespect. “I was in the military. I understand what the flag means,” Wilkens said. “The flag means we should be proud Americans and we should speak up against injustice. And that’s what these young men were doing. They didn’t soil the flag. They didn’t spit on it or anything. The flag gives us the right to bring attention to what’s not right.”
Michael C. Wright: The Spurs play in Atlanta on Martin Luther King Day, and coach Gregg Popovich was asked about the significance of the day after the team’s win Saturday over the Denver Nuggets: “It makes you wonder what he would say if he was here. I think if he was here, he’d have probably figured out a way to gather some people together, and make a stand so this doesn’t keep happening. But at this point, it’s all about leadership and trying to bring people together. And we just don’t have a lot of that right now. Nobody was better at that than he was. He knew how to protest peacefully, but he also knew how to bring people together and get things done. We don’t seem to have that right now. So we’ve just gotta keep dealing.”
2 years ago via ESPN
Additionally, the Hornets’ Marvin Williams was one of the players to address the home crowd and ask them to take a moment to remember King. “We also want to ask that you remember Dr. King and his dream within the next couple of days. Black History Month is coming up. It’s a great month for us. With everything going on in the world today, we just want to remember to treat each other with kindness, love and passion, and remember Dr. King.”
NBA players are wearing these “I have a dream” shirts during their warmups to honor Martin Luther King Jr. up until MLK Day this year. The front says “I HAVE A DREAM,” and on the back, there’s a quote from that famous speech along with the date he made the speech, Aug. 28, 1963. The shirts are also for sale at the NBA store with all league proceeds going to the National Civil Rights Museum, per the site.