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Kyle Korver reflects on speaking out about white privilege

The NBA veteran discusses the aftermath of his article in The Players’ Tribune

Kyle Korver had the sports world buzzing on April 8, 2019, when he acknowledged the issues of white privilege and racism in his first-person story for The Players Tribune titled Privileged.

Nearly a year later, Korver told The Undefeated that the reaction to his article was mixed, but more positive than he expected.

“Some people were very emotional. It’s hard for me to fully understand,” said Korver, who was a member of the Utah Jazz when he penned the article. “A lot of people felt seen, especially in the NBA. Some older people, some older men, reached out to me and just said thank you. I wasn’t planning on any good reaction. I was bracing for the other side. So, that was really interesting to hear. I’m grateful.

“It’s a hard one to talk about publicly because there are so many reactions and so many opinions. The healing that has to happen hasn’t happened yet because there are so many layers to this. This is so complicated. But I think we all take our turns, share our experiences.”

Playing with predominantly black teammates helped Korver learn about his white privilege. While the former NBA All-Star and sportsmanship award winner said he considered speaking about it publicly for years, he finally felt comfortable expressing his thoughts through the written word.

Korver, who is now with the Milwaukee Bucks, reflects on the aftermath of the article in the following Q&A.

What were your thoughts when you e-mailed your final words out to be published?

It’s one thing to have internal thoughts and opinions. It’s another thing to put it out there. I didn’t really think much about what would happen, to be honest. There was no driving force. I felt that it had been put on my heart. I wanted to share my experience. When you read the piece, you can come to the conclusion that I just had this epiphany and wrote about it the next week. The reality was that the piece was a lot of years in the making. I spent a lot of time trying to find the right voice to use.

All you can share is your own experiences, your own shortcomings. That is all I tried to put together. We landed from a road trip and there was a deadline we set with The Players’ Tribune to post it. It was 3 in the morning and I’m sitting in my garage until 3:30 a.m. It’s supposed to go out that morning. I’m sitting there like, ‘All right … ’ And then you re-read it so many times. Ultimately, it was something that I feel is right. I want to be part of those things in life.

How did you come up with the idea of writing it?

The idea started in Atlanta [when Korver played for the Atlanta Hawks]. There was a bunch of things nationally and locally that were happening. And, I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t fully understand.’ And I was embarrassed.

I’ve lived in complete diversity and no diversity. … I was born in Paramount, California. Then I moved to Iowa. Then I’m in Omaha, Nebraska, and then Philly and then Utah and then Chicago, Atlanta, Cleveland and back to Utah.

It was really interesting to me when I was trying to understand and be intentional in having conversations and intentional in trying to research. How many blind spots did I have even though I lived in the NBA? It was like, ‘Wow.’ All this stuff. The anthem [protest in the NFL] is happening. All these conversations were happening. I was talking to friends back home, where there wasn’t a lot of diversity and they had certain opinions on all these things.

There was a string of events, four significant events that happened, where I thought there was an opportunity to say something. … So I tried to take that seriously. What good will it do? I don’t know.

What were the reactions to your article?

Some people were very expressive. You get mail. You get letters. Obviously, on social media you get people that have different opinions. It was talked about quite a bit on different media outlets. It was good and bad. Some people thought it was helpful, not helpful, hurtful. Some people expressed their anger. Some did it with silence. That’s hard to have, too. People that kind of go quiet.

Was there anyone who approached you in a positive way that really struck a chord with you?

People were coming up to me almost every day. But it’s died down. It’s been some time now. People would come up to me to talk about it and say it was meaningful for them. I’m grateful. I hope that it was helpful for some people.

How did your Jazz teammates react?

I was running stuff by them the whole time. I had a small group of people that I thought that could help me and make sure I wasn’t missing too bad. I had a couple teammates who were in the process with me.

What was it like after publicly expressing your views?

I really tried to put my heart into it. I really tried to think through it well. It’s one thing to have random thoughts in your head and have a conversation with someone behind closed doors. It’s another thing to put something out there that people are going to critique. It was really healthy for me. On a personal [level], the best part of that, there was a lot of thought, years of trying to understand and conversations to get to that point. But I think after doing that, I thought it was just the beginning point to try to understand and try to be helpful.

I try not to do a lot of [interviews] because I don’t want people to think I’m trying to create an identity and narrative. I try to be quiet and let the piece speak for itself. I feel like it could do that. But also there is an understanding that you don’t just put something out there and go quiet. I’m trying to find that balance and continue my own inner work in this, be better and reach out to certain people. There is so much great information and tools.

Are there any causes you have gotten behind since your voice was heard?

There are a lot of great ones. I am supporting things that I have always been supporting behind the scenes. I got a couple speaking engagements. It feels like life work to me. It’s not something I’m afraid of, cautious and wise walking into those spaces. I try to be humble. I try to understand there is opportunity. But being able to talk to people is a privilege in itself.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.