Brogdon Running Point in Fight for Racial Equality
Whenever NBA players are permitted to return to their practice facilities and begin preparing for the resumption of the season, Malcolm Brogdon plans to arrive back in Indianapolis a week earlier. He'll have more than basketball on his mind, however.
Brogdon, speaking to reporters via a Zoom call on Friday, said he hopes to initiate actions that appropriately follow up on all the words he has spoken regarding racial inequality since George Floyd was killed by a police officer on May 25.
He mentioned a Pacers-led march as a possibility if timing permits, but more certainly the formation of a personal foundation that will address educational inequities such as by funding new charter schools in Indianapolis. Whatever it takes to make the movement something more than a topic of conversation.
"With what's going on right now, a lot of the black community feels that conversations aren't enough anymore," Brogdon said. "We've been having conversations for years. Now it's about actions; now it's about solutions.
"So, I think demonstrating when we get back to playing games some way of keeping the fight going, still bringing awareness of what's going on and not allowing basketball to distract us (will be important)."
Whatever Brogdon decides to do, he will have the support of the Pacers' ownership and management. President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard made that clear in an earlier Zoom call with media.
Pritchard spoke passionately and at times emotionally about his desire to help bring about societal change in race relations. He referenced an hour-long conference call the Pacers Sports & Entertainment full-time staff had with Brogdon, Pacers guard T.J. McConnell, former Fever General Manager and former player Tamika Catchings, and current Fever star Erica Wheeler that heightened his awareness, one he called "the most powerful hour I've ever had in my entire life."
"I truly felt their pain in that call," Pritchard said. "I can tell you this, we have their backs. We'll do more with Pacers Sports & Entertainment. There are some things we do OK, there are some things we haven't, and we have to do much, much better for our communities."
He said he has talked with Brogdon every day and encouraged him to speak and act.
His message: "This is your time to shine. Do it. We trust you. The organization trusts you. Steve and Herbie (Simon) trust you. So, do it, and we've got your back."
Brogdon became a national figure in the protest movement by participating in a march in Atlanta on July 30. Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown was the primary catalyst behind the demonstration, and Brogdon readily joined in. He carried a megaphone and his calls to action were widely viewed on media outlets and within social media. He has since been interviewed on nationally televised programs.
He said on Friday his involvement in the march was impromptu after communicating with Brown, but believes he has been called upon to "stand up for what I believe in."
He admitted to being nervous about marching.
"Of course I had nerves, but what's the purpose of what I'm nervous about?" he said. "Does that serve a greater purpose than myself? Is that going to help the community and this nation and the world? Once you put it in that perspective, the nerves sort of go out the window when you get there.
"To see all the people out, to see all the power behind what they're marching for. It's about putting things in perspective and understanding that there's a huge, huge problem in this world. It's just one of them, but it's a huge problem right now, especially in this country. What I wanted to do was march and bring more light to it regardless of my fears and regardless of what I would be risking.
"The feeling you can get from being with a mixed group of people who are joining for one cause and being in support of it, there's really nothing like it. It was definitely one of the more impactful experiences of my life."
Brogdon has been tagged with the nickname "President" because of his leadership skills, and Pritchard offered to become his campaign manager if he ever decides to go into politics. Brogdon, however, said he has not thought that far ahead.
"It's definitely an option," he said. "It's definitely something I've thought about. That's another full-time commitment that would be demanding. I want to have a family and I want to be able to focus on my family once I have that. I'm not sure what I want to do after (basketball)."
Although athletes and other people in the public eye are sometimes criticized for making political or social statements, Brogdon said he considers it an obligation.
"I think pro athletes regardless of their race have a responsibility to be part of the solution," he said. "Speaking up is a way you can demonstrate that you're part of the solution, but there are other ways.
"The biggest problem is being silent. Silent in terms of not taking action...that's when you are hurting rather than helping."
Brogdon said NBA players are split over resuming the season in reduced form with teams that have no chance of qualifying for the playoffs omitted and the rest of the league playing on a neutral court in Orlando with no fans present.
He prefers to play, if for no other reason than earning money to advance his causes.
"I see a lot of value in both arguments," he said. "Right now, I lean toward having the money. With the philanthropic outreach I want to do and the stuff I'm doing right now, you have to have money to do that. You have to have a platform to do that. Whatever I do off the floor, whatever I do in the NBA, I have to have a reputation where people want to work with me, where people think once I commit to something I'm going to finish that.
"A lot of people think you have to do this or this. A lot of it is about being able to do this and this. Right now with basketball, we have the ability to make statements, to use our leverage, to bring about every change we want while also playing basketball. That's definitely where I'm leaning. But I understand both sides of the argument."
Pritchard said he put that question to coach Nate McMillan — and McMillan's response was clear.
"He said, what the world needs right now is a little bit of love and fun," Pritchard said. "His reaction is, 'Let's get back together. It's important to get our team back together.'"
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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