Nuggets' Michael Malone takes part in Juneteenth Silent March, vows to stay active in movement for social change

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider
@chrisadempsey

The last few weeks have been heady times for Nuggets coach Michael Malone. He’s taken stock of the world around him, of the calls for social justice, of the plight of African-Americans, and made it a point to immerse himself in learning.

“Because, until we recognize the past struggles, we’re not going to get to the solutions we want,” Malone told Nuggets.com/Altitude Sports at the State Capitol following the Juneteenth silent march. “That’s important for all of us. That’s one thing that I have tried to do as of late; help educate my players as much as I can. Help educate myself as much as I can. There’s so much to learn and know. It can be overwhelming sometimes, but I’m definitely looking forward to learning as much as I can throughout this process.”

Part of the learning process led him, and much of the Nuggets coaching and support staff, to City Park on what turned into a rain-soaked Friday afternoon. But raindrops could not dampen the energy and importance of the day.

Juneteenth, the holiday recognizing the end of slavery in America, is living its most prominent moment. The silent march was held on a day many companies and organizations that had never done so before, gave employees the day off and also helped educate those unaware of it, why it was important to do so.

That included Kroenke Sports & Entertainment.

“I love the fact that the Kroenkes made today a holiday – they gave everybody the day off,” Malone said. “I think we are heading in the right direction, but there’s obviously a lot of work ahead of us, and we have to meet that head on.”

The march started at City Park in the late morning hours, walked past Denver East High School, and then west down Colfax until it reached the State Capitol. Once there, a full program of speakers and tributes educated and inspired the crowd for another couple of hours.

Malone soaked it all in.

“There’s so much work to be done across the country,” he said. “But, this is a different time. I’ve never seen the response than I’ve seen in this current climate. The response to George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so on and so forth. And this is all across the world right now. You’re seeing white, black, brown, yellow, everybody coming together. And if we can continue that, something good is going to come of this.”

Malone continued: “I’m not sure why this is different. I’m ashamed to say. This has been a vicious cycle that’s been on repeat. Rodney King was 1991. Eric Garner was 2014. Michael Brown was 2017. So it took another person – George Floyd. And thank goodness it was caught on camera, not just police body camera, but somebody witnessing this. Here is a person who is begging for his life, begging for his mother. It definitely struck a nerve. And, it’s not just a white thing or a black thing. This is a people thing and I love the fact that we are all joining in this cause. It’s so important. I want my kids to grow up in a society where, like Dr. (Martin Luther) King said so many years ago, no one is judged by the color of their skin but rather by the content of their character. That is a hope, it is a dream, and I hope that dream comes true.”

And yet, this goes beyond simply educating himself on the issues. Malone wants to be as hands-on as he possibly can be to keep a spotlight on, and help find solutions for, social issues.

“I don’t want to be somebody that just talks about it,” Malone said. “I want to follow that up with action. And today, it was great to see the turnout, and to be a very small part of something much bigger than myself.”

And it isn’t just him.

NBA coaches have held a handful of Zoom calls to discuss what impact they can have on their communities.

“I’m extremely proud to be part of the NBA,” Malone said. “Our association is always way out in front of things. We have always preached inclusivity. We have preached about equality and freedoms and respecting and honoring everybody. And that starts with our commissioner and flows down to all 30 teams.”

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