ORLANDO - With hopes of bringing about social change and ultimately ending racism in Central Florida and beyond, nearly two dozen members of the Orlando Magic – including Chairman Dan DeVos, CEO Alex Martins, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman, head coach Steve Clifford and standout players Nikola Vucevic and Markelle Fultz – participated in a powerful video asking others seeking equality for all to, "Walk With Us."
The 98-second video opens and closes with passionate chants of, ``Walk With Us! Walk With Us! Walk With Us!’’ In between, 22 members of the Magic organization recite lines demanding equality for all, calling for change in how African-American people are treated while also asking others to rise up and be vocal about the issue.
Near the end of the video, dozens of names of people killed at the hands of police or civilian vigilantes – such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others – scroll across the screen and ultimately form the words, ``BLACK LIVES MATTER.’’ Videos showed Floyd being killed in Minneapolis as police officers restrained him and cut off air to his body with a knee to the back of the neck, while a jogging Arbery was shot by two civilians who pursued him in a vehicle.
Since Floyd’s death on May 25 and subsequent protests around the nation, the Magic have taken a leadership role in trying to enact change in how African-Americans are treated by police officers, government and others in the Central Florida area. The Magic recently held a ``Town Hall’’ virtual meeting where staffers listened to stories of racism and abuse from leadership members of the NBA, and many of the Magic employees also shared their own personal experiences with social injustice.
The Magic’s players, coaches and Basketball Operations staff also took part in an interactive Zoom call with voting rights activist Desmond Meade – Executive Director of the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition – and felt collectively that one of the ways that they could enact social change would be by pushing others to get out and vote in the coming months.
Meade led the successful effort to pass a 2018 state initiative that restored voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians with prior felony convictions. In 2019, Time magazine named Meade as one of the ``100 most influential people in the world,’’ and Magic players were obviously moved by his push to get more people voting in local, state and national elections that could potentially bring about change in terms of social injustices.
Upon reporting to the nearby Disney World campus on Tuesday for the restart of the NBA season, Magic players, coaches and staffers wore black T-shirts that read, ``GET OFF THE BENCH, GET INTO THE GAME, VOTE.’’ Martins, the Magic’s CEO, said on Wednesday that the public response to the T-shirts was so favorable that the organization might soon make the shirts available for purchase by fans.
``The NBA has told us at every turn – including (Tuesday) at (Disney) orientation – how important it is to use this (NBA restart) forum as a platform to address social injustice and racism,’’ said Weltman, the architect of a Magic team that is in line to reach the NBA playoffs for a second straight season. ``That can take on a lot of forms, and we all know that. But Desmond (Meade) really resonated with our guys. That’s the impetus for the shirts.’’
In the ``Walk With Us’’ video, DeVos, Weltman, Martins and Linda Landman Gonzalez, the Magic’s Vice President of Social Responsibility, take turns saying the words, ``We fully embrace our responsibility to create lasting change … to change from within … to have uncomfortable conversations … and to acknowledge history.’’
Then, Magic reserve guard Michael Carter-Williams asks basketball fans and others in the community to, ``Walk With Us.’’
Magic assistant coach Tyrone Corbin and forward Al-Farouq Aminu follow with demands of, ``We have to do better than this!’’ and ``We must do better than this!’’
Point guard D.J. Augustin and Carter-Williams say that the community must, ``use this platform … for something bigger than basketball,’’ as chants of ``Black Lives Matter’’ fill the void.
Magic players Wes Iwundu, Vic Law, Gary Clark and B.J. Johnson then ask for change, ``from Parramore,’’ ``to Eatonville,’’ ``to Tallahassee,’’ and ``to Washington, D.C.’’
``Walk With Us,’’ Lakeland Magic President Shelly Wilkes and Magic center Mo Bamba then ask.
Near the end of the video, Lakeland Magic General Manager Anthony Parker, Vucevic and Fultz state that ``It’s time to come together … to end racism … and to confirm that Black Lives Matter. Clifford then informs fans, ``Your voice matter.’’ Finally, Augustin, Vucevic and Aminu powerfully ask fans, ``Walk With Us! Walk With Us! Walk With Us!’’
Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Magic. All opinions expressed by John Denton are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Magic or their Basketball Operations staff, partners or sponsors.