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Coates to NBA Player: How Do You Live Knowing Police Could Kill You?

coates-to-nba-player:-how-do-you-live-knowing-police-could-kill-you?

Toward the end of a Friday discussion with the NBA’s Garrett Temple and Donovan Mitchell, and the WNBA’s Nneka Ogwumike, CNN Tonight guest host Laura Coates asked Mitchell how he lives as a black man knowing that, despite his fame as an professional athletes, he could be killed by the police.

The discussion was meant to provide a counterpoint to those who want sports to be apolitical. Coates oozed to the panel, “I think it’s so laudable that each of you did not choose to use your platforms as merely a form of escapism for the nation to turn their eyes away. It was an opportunity for you as you talk about to shine that light, to hold the magnifying and the mirror up.”

Seeking to rebuke those critics, Coates asked Ogwumike, “Nneka, what do you say to people who think athletes should just stay away from politics, this is not your lane?”

Ogwumike replied by saying that they have no choice, “You know, I got asked this question last year in the bubble. And, quite frankly, athletes wish that they could just play, but we can’t. We’re not just players, we’re citizens as well. We’re members of our communities. And we would be remiss not to use our platforms. I know in the W we’ve really seen a big turning point with how we were able to use our platforms for change.”

Last year, CNN joined in efforts from some in the WNBA to force then GOP Sen. Kelly Loeffler out of a co-ownership position with the Atlanta Dream for simply saying the league should not align with partisan political agendas.  

Later, Coates turned to Mitchell to instill fear into viewers, “I’ve got to ask, what is it like to be so revered as an athlete? I mean, people all over the country are wearing your jersey and singing praises. And then when you leave the court, you have just as much of a chance as any other black man of having a routine traffic stop escalate into something that could be deadly.”

Mitchell agreed:

It’s the reality. I think the craziest part about it. I’ve been pulled over while in the NBA. I have a pretty loud car, colorful, definitely a car that’s not, you know, with the music blaring. I got pulled over in a neighborhood that the cop thought I shouldn’t be in. And it was very aggressive kind of like what are you doing here, are you sure you’re going home? And it wasn’t until I gave him my license that his whole demeanor changed. 

Instead of fearmongering, Coates could have provided some statistics about the rate at which traffic stops involve some kind of force (it’s about 1%), but that would require those “using their platform” to do more than just sloganeering.   

This segment was sponsored by Fidelity.

Here is a transcript for the April 23 show: 

CNN

CNN Tonight with Don Lemon

11:30 PM ET

LAURA COATES: I think it’s so laudable that each of you did not choose to use your platforms as merely a form of escapism for the nation to turn their eyes away. It was an opportunity for you as you talk about to shine that light, to hold the magnifying and the mirror up. Nneka, what do you say to people who think athletes should just stay away from politics, this is not your lane? 

NNEKA OGWUMIKE: You know, I got asked this question last year in the bubble. And, quite frankly, athletes wish that they could just play, but we can’t. We’re not just players, we’re citizens as well. We’re members of our communities. And we would be remiss not to use our platforms. I know in the W we’ve really seen a big turning point with how we were able to use our platforms for change.

COATES: Donovan, I’m going to give you the last word here. I’ve got to ask, what is it like to be so revered as an athlete? I mean, people all over the country are wearing your jersey and singing praises. And then when you leave the court, you have just as much of a chance as any other black man of having a routine traffic stop escalate into something that could be deadly. 

DONOVAN MITCHELL: Um, it’s the reality. I think the craziest part about it. I’ve been pulled over while in the NBA. I have a pretty loud car, colorful, definitely a car that’s not, you know, with the music blaring. I got pulled over in a neighborhood that the cop thought I shouldn’t be in. And it was very aggressive kind of like what are you doing here, are you sure you’re going home? And it wasn’t until I gave him my license that his whole demeanor changed. And so the reason why I continue to speak up is because, like, there are black men, black women, people of color who can’t just hand them their license and be able to have the cop’s whole demeanor change because they play basketball or they’re famous. That’s really what I speak for. And that’s something we all speak for. 

And, I think, at the end of the day I’m a black man first. I play basketball, and that’s great. I’m a black man first and I would like to speak for black men, black women. And I think that’s really my biggest push as a role model, as an athlete. Because at the end of the day, like you said, it can happen to any one of us, especially once we step off that floor, we’re a black man, a black woman, people of color. I think that’s really where it starts for us.

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