With the Golden State Warriors one game away from reaching the NBA finals, head coach Steve Kerr took time before Tuesday’s Western Conference championship game against the Dallas Mavericks to condemn senators who’ve blocked gun safety measures. There's a high chance by now you've seen the viral video of Kerr indignantly slamming his hand on a table over Tuesday’s mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, in which 19 children and two teachers were killed.
“I ask you, Mitch McConnell," Kerr said. "I ask all of you senators who refuse to do anything about the violence in 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.”
If you haven’t yet, take a moment to watch Kerr’s comments in full.
Like many Americans, Kerr is intimately aware of how gun violence can wreak havoc on people and families. His father, a U.S. diplomat and college president in Lebanon, was assassinated in Beirut in 1984, when Kerr was 18.
And when it comes to gun violence stateside, he’s served as a kind of sports spokesman after multiple school shootings now, a shameful indicator of just how recurrent this issue is. In 2018, Kerr delivered remarks about the deadly shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that mirrored his remarks Tuesday night.
“It doesn’t seem to matter to our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools,” Kerr said the night of the Parkland shooting. “It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people who are running this country to actually do anything.”
To me, Kerr’s impassioned plea for politicians to act belongs to a genre of speeches and remarks made by coaches who — particularly in recent years — have spoken out to compel public goodness in the absence of much-needed legislation. At the risk of downplaying these remarks, I often think of them as pep talks: They’re literally speeches from public figures meant to inspire people to be their better selves.
Kerr, along with NBA coaches Doc Rivers and Gregg Popovich and former coach Stan Van Gundy, have been outspoken about racial injustice, for example, and were among the people calling for police accountability during the 2020 racial justice protests while Congress, for its part, did nothing to enforce it.
That advocacy is appreciated, but America’s top lawmakers should feel ashamed that they’ve failed to meet the moment and ceded so much moral authority to America’s top coaches.