Following the death of George Floyd caused by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin holding his knee on Floyd’s neck, protests emerged across the United States this weekend, including within the city of Atlanta. Members of Atlanta Hawks leadership spoke on the issue in recent days, with head coach Lloyd Pierce embracing a significant role, both within the organization and across the basketball landscape.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Pierce — along with Gregg Popovich, Steve Kerr, David Fizdale, Doc Rivers, JB Bickerstaff, Quin Snyder. and Stan Van Gundy — was selected to a “Committee on Racial Injustice and Reform” established by the NBCA. From there, Wojnarowski indicates that Pierce “played a leadership role in the NBCA’s weekend dialogue and has shown a determination to encourage the entire roster of coaches — not just those traditionally speaking on issues of race and equality — to be part of a movement of voice and action within the profession’s ranks.”
National Basketball Coaches Association Membership Statement on the Death of George Floyd pic.twitter.com/Yc7QNpnVr5— NBA Coaches Assoc. (@NBA_Coaches) June 1, 2020
In addition to his expanding role in the NBCA, Pierce has been publicly vocal, including a statement on Instagram, which he shared with the AJC was not about him, but rather “it was about any person that’s black, any man that’s black.”
View this post on Instagram
There is an APPROPRIATE FEAR being a black man in America. Feeling safe/protected is NOT an option for me. To think #JusticeforFloyd could easily be #JusticeforLloyd and it’s because we look alike to (those who discredit our existence) We are recycling hashtags and protests to no avail.
From there, a memo from within the Hawks organization emerged, with Pierce joined by owner Tony Ressler, CEO Steve Koonin, President of Basketball Operations Travis Schlenk and Executive Vice President and Chief People, Diversity and Inclusion Officer Camye Mackey.
Hawks internal memo: "The recent and recurring examples of weaponized racism, police brutality and race-based preferential treatment across the nation are extremely disturbing and heart-breaking."— Sarah K. Spencer (@sarah_k_spence) May 29, 2020
Signed Tony Ressler, Steve Koonin, Travis Schlenk, Lloyd Pierce and Camye Mackey pic.twitter.com/nzFX7LlKsf
“My voice as an African American voice, probably the biggest African American voice in our organization as a head coach, if I have the fear, who else has it?” Pierce told Sarah Spencer of the AJC. “And there are a lot of people who have it, which we understand, so it has to happen. And it has to happen for a lot of reasons.”
From a broader NBA perspective, NBA commissioner Adam Silver sent the following memo to NBA teams.
Here's the memo Commissioner Adam Silver sent to his teams: "I am heartened by the many members of the NBA & WNBA family – players, coaches, legends, team owners, executives at all levels – speaking out to demand justice, urging peaceful protest & working for meaningful change." pic.twitter.com/LSLxos0HvE— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) June 1, 2020
Koonin also weighed in from his personal Twitter account with a candid message.
Silence is cowardly ...Stop hiding behind your badges, stop breaking parents hearts, and stop pretending this isn’t happening. Start....loving each other, start listening to each other, and start celebrating our differences.— Steve Koonin (@SteveKoonin) May 31, 2020
While a great deal of attention is currently paid to on-court and business concerns surrounding the NBA’s potential restart plans, there are simply bigger issues than basketball. Through that lens, Pierce — along with Koonin and many others including Jaylen Brown, Malcolm Brogdon and former Hawk Justin Anderson — is a fantastic example of leadership in this tremendously important moment.