Garrett Temple is following current events closely, and like many of his outraged NBA peers, is tweeting about Donald Trump, Charlottesville, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, while wondering how best to counter the hateful message.
Take a knee? Lock arms during the anthem? Boycott certain products? Teach the children to love and respect their neighbors – by any means necessary?
When training camps open in a few weeks, fans probably should expect all of the above. And more. A mood swing is in the air, on social media, in arenas around the country. And the NBA is not the NFL, where the commissioner, his owners and his coaches adhere to the company line and refuse to stick a toe within an inch of dissent. In today’s NBA, if Colin Kaepernick could play backup point guard, he would have a job – somewhere – though probably someplace other than, say, Oklahoma City.
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LeBron James speaks and everyone listens. Canadian basketball icon Steve Nash pens a scathing tweet about the president’s disturbing response to Charlottesville, and the world lends an ear. Closer to home, Temple is studying the issues and preparing to raise his voice.
“The closer we get to training camp, when this Trump stuff dies down, we will all talk about what we are going to do,” said the Kings veteran. “We realize that we have a very large platform. One of the things I love about our league so much is that we’re the most progressive of all the major sports. But at the end of the day, you wonder how much has changed. We’re in a league where 75 percent of the players are black, but we still have very few minority owners and general managers. Frankly, we still have a long way to go, and we have to talk about that.”
Temple, 31, who is entering his second season in Sacramento, recently was named vice president of the National Basketball Players Association, one of several executive positions filled under Chris Paul. And though he lacks the superstar profile, his unique background causes his words to resonate with the power of a boombox, never moreso than in a Kings locker room crowded with teens and rookies.
Where to start? Temple’s paternal grandmother attended the Tuskegee Institute and took classes taught by George Washington Carver. All of his grandparents finished college in the early 1900s, though not in their native Louisiana. His father, Collis Temple Jr., was the first African American to play basketball at Louisiana State.
“The governor at the time (John McKeithen) was in my dad’s living room, begging him to integrate LSU,” Garrett Temple said. “He had no idea that my grandfather had been turned away years earlier because he was black. Literally, Louisiana gave my grandparents money to attend college out of state. To my dad’s credit, he enrolled at LSU and even ended up getting his master’s.”
But he endured a lot. In his first two years at LSU, Collis Temple was subjected to repeated racial taunts from coach Press Maravich, the father of NBA star Pete Maravich. Dale Brown replaced Maravich prior to Temple’s junior season and, mercifully, immediately ended the discriminatory practices and divisive climate.
Garrett became a Brown fan – and a Chris Jackson fan – when he was barely out of diapers. He remembers sitting in a gym, watching the explosive Jackson weave through defenses and drop 48 points against Louisiana Tech and 53 points at Florida. The diminutive guard was drafted by Denver with the No. 3 pick after his sophomore season, but after nine NBA seasons that included two years with the Kings, he is probably best known for changing his name to Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and declining to stand for the national anthem.
Expressing views similar to Kaepernick, Abdul-Rauf called the flag a symbol of repression and an affront to his Muslim faith. He was suspended two games by the league before a compromise was reached and he agreed to stand, with his eyes cast downward.
The memories were rekindled last week when Abdul-Rauf was honored by the National Association of Black Journalists in New Orleans.
“Just seeing him again reminded me of how much I respect him because he stood up for what he believed in,” said Temple. “It was just very powerful. This was a guy I really looked up to and admired. Craig Hodges went through a lot, too. He wore a dashiki when he went to the White House with the Bulls, and he slipped President George H.W. Bush a note urging him to end repression. Craig got blackballed after that, and he could still really shoot. It reminded us that the NBA has come a long way since then, but that change happens slowly.”
Temple, whose parents run nonprofit shelters for abused women and facilities for substance abuse treatment in the Baton Rouge area, said being socially active is ingrained in his consciousness. What will he tell De’Aaron Fox? Serbian Bogdan Bogdanovic? Harry Giles? He is upset and engaged, and hope they will be, too.
“I will do my part in terms of enlightening people and being a good person,” he said. “We have an obvious platform, but we need to learn more. The kids in our community, especially the black kids, need to be taught more about the current state of affairs in America. I applaud Colin Kaepernick for what he did. It cost him his job. When I hear Michael Vick say he should cut his hair, I really have no words for that. Really? I applaud Michael Bennett. At the end of the day, they are standing up against hate – anti-black, anti-gay, anti-Jewish, anti-female – and I hope the NFL can understand that. I really do.”