INDIANAPOLIS – There’s no denying it’s been an emotional week, one that’s hit pretty hard on the local sports scene.
Players and management are seeing and feeling the effects of social injustice, including Pacers’ president Kevin Pritchard.
“We’re all having these raw emotions,” Pritchard told media in a Zoom call. “(Head coach) Nate (McMillan) said it the best to me, ‘you know you have a good heart. You know when people don’t. You’re job is to stand by, listen, learn and then activate next to people. When you see it, call it out.’ We’re going to do that. We’re going to do that to the best of our ability and we’re going to stand up for what’s right.”
Pritchard expressed pride in his players’ leadership over the last week, singling out the work of Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, Justin and Aaron Holiday and the Fever. Brogdon participated in demonstrations in his hometown Atlanta last weekend.
“Right now is an opportunity for me to shed light on people that don’t have a voice, so that’s what I’m using it to do,” Brogdon said. “It’s an opportunity to shed light on issues that have been ignored for so long and bring solutions to them.”
“He is a superstar. He’s not a star. He’s a superstar,” said Pritchard. “When I first met him when we signed him, we walked out of the first meeting with him and we said, ‘that guy’s a president.’ What he is doing in the community, I think this organization is so proud. We’re watching him and his platform is growing.”
Pritchard was asked if the NBA’s return-to-play plan, approved by the players association on Friday afternoon will help or hurt to keep the social movement’s momentum.
“A tough question,” Pritchard said. “I called Nate this morning and I said, ‘Nate, are we going to be looked upon as insensitive if we push basketball right now?’ Without missing a beat, his first response was, ‘what the world needs right now is a little bit of love and fun.'”
“We can come back, still work on our racial issues and police brutality and have beautiful basketball games. It’s not an ‘or’. We can have both.”
Brogdon explained there are players on both sides of the argument.
“Very polarizing,” said Brodgon. “Some guys are like, ‘I’m not playing. I don’t want to play. This is not the right time. They’re trying to distract us from what’s going on and the real issues. I’m not going to prioritize basketball over people’s health in general.'”
“Right now with basketball, I think we have the ability to make statements to use our leverage to bring out whatever change we want, while also playing. That’s definitely where I’m leaning, but I understand both ends.”
Players have had preliminary talks about hosting a march when the team returns to town. Pritchard believes the franchise is ready for action.
“I think you’re going to see a completely new Pacers’ organization and if we’re not, hold us accountable,” Pritchard said. “That’s the difference, we are willing to be held accountable.”