The Meijer employees (all donning masks) listened closely Tuesday afternoon.
A representative of the Detroit Pistons moved forward and raised an electronic tablet bearing a shout-out to workers.
Socially distancing workers probably struggled to hear the recorded well-wishes from Detroit Pistons guard Langston Galloway.
But with Hooper posing with workers right after selecting new kicks donated by the Langston Galloway Foundation and Samaritan’s Feet, the message of thanks was well-received.
The giveaway for Meijer employees – workers essential for consumers stocking home refrigerators and cabinets during the COVID-19 pandemic – was possible through the efforts of Galloway and his wife, Sabrina.
The couple partnered with the nonprofit to donate 500 pairs of shoes to Meijer employees. Another giveaway was later held at the Meijer location on Grand River Avenue in Detroit.
You could look at the two giveaways as a culmination of the Galloways’ support of the Pistons since the league suspended operations in response to the pandemic.
From Langston’s participation in the franchise’s many outreach efforts to Sabrina’s hosting a series of webinars to support young women, the couple set an example for those wanting to help the community.
“Sabrina and Langston Galloway embody what it means to immerse yourself in the community in which you play,” Pistons vice president of community relations Erika Swilley wrote in an e-mail.
“Since Langston joined the Pistons, they have brought their time, money and resources to helping others. This off-season has been no different for the couple, who have participated in numerous virtual events and have recorded messages on behalf of the organization.”
The high school sweethearts, who grew up in Baton Rouge, La., have been that way since Galloway, 28, entered the NBA as an undrafted free agent with the New York Knicks during the 2014-15 season.
The efforts continued with the Pistons and came to the forefront in recent months when it was not clear if Galloway, who is a free agent, would ever suit up for the Pistons again.
“Community is who I am and that's what I was raised on,” Langston told Pistons.com several weeks ago. “It doesn't matter what team I'm playing for, but I must use my platform to the best of my abilities.
“I'm not sure if I'm going to be with the Pistons next year or not, but at the same time, it's like these are opportunities for me to work on my skills off the court.”
‘This might be it’
Langston remembers sitting on the visitor’s bench at the Well Fargo Center on March 11.
It was late in the Pistons’ 124-106 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers when players started hearing nearby fans discuss major news.
Twitter was abuzz with reports that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus shortly before tipping off in Oklahoma City vs. the Thunder. A member of team security confirmed the news.
“Yo, it's true,” Galloway remembers hearing. “This might be it, y'all.”
The Thunder-Jazz game was postponed, and the league suspended operations shortly afterward. The Pistons had faced the Jazz four nights earlier.
The players faced uncertainty.
“The next thing you know I'm up at the podium talking about we have to figure out what's next for the organization, for the league, and for ourselves because we had just played the Jazz,” Langston said.
After speculation the league would cancel the season, it was clear that NBA would crown a champion. A plan was formulated to resume play July 30 at Walt Disney World in in Orlando with postseason play to be held at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.
It was not clear if the Pistons, well out of the postseason picture, would be allowed to play in the league’s Orlando bubble to protect against a COVID-19 outbreak.
The timeframe from March 11 to June 5, when the NBA announced the Pistons and seven other losing teams would not head to Orlando, was nearly 17 weeks.
The Galloways were in limbo; not knowing if Langston would be needed if the Pistons could play. And as a free agent, the couple did not know where Langston will play next season.
But that uncertainty did not prevent availability for the Pistons, who embarked on a series of programs to boost community morale while the state dealt with a serious outbreak that strained the Detroit healthcare system. The couple noticed how the pandemic disporportionately affected communities of color, like Hurricane Katrina and other Louisiana storms that wreaked havoc in their home state while growing up.
One of the programs was “Girls Dream Big,” a series of webinars geared toward young women. The series was part of the Pistons’ celebration of women and highlighted female leaders in sports, media, entertainment, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Sabrina Galloway eagerly accepted when asked by Swilley to host.
“I have a passion for not only seeing women win, but also creating a conversation around motivating younger women,” Sabrina Galloway said. “I think that when the opportunity presented itself, no matter where Langston plays, this is how I show up.
“I show up by using my voice and using my platform in order to encourage the next generation of young women as they sat at home during uncertain times.”
The focus changes
The focus of the webinars grew to include more than women empowerment.
On May 25, George Floyd was killed while in Minneapolis police custody. The senseless death set off a wave of protests against police brutality and systemic racism
The first webinar was held May 15. The last two webinars – many noted female speakers of color participated – addressed the news dominating TV newscasts and social media.
The last event featured women entrepreneurs and the focus was how financial acumen can be an instrument to address society’s systemic racial problems. The couple has business interests away from the playing floor.
“You look at what attributes to (systemic racism) and a lot of that is rooted in money and the access to capital, the access to money to create a better life for yourself,” Sabrina Galloway said. “There's a lot of things that go into it, but I think that my approach has definitely been encouraging women to become entrepreneurs.”
The Galloways and their infant son have returned to Louisiana where Sabrina Galloway is working with a political campaign. Langston Galloway recently conducted his fifth annual basketball camp in his hometown.
NBA free agency begins Oct. 18 and the Galloways will learn their next NBA destination. If he does not re-sign with the Pistons, it will be the couple’s fifth stop.
But the plan remains the same. The couple wants to impact the community positively through their foundation and other platforms.
“It's just that if we consistently show up in our communities that we're from, where we are, that's where I see us really winning,” Sabrina said. “That's a lot of different ways, but that's how we do it.”