As the Bullets Fly and People Die, Steve Kerr Continues to Fight Against Injustices

OAKLAND -- Steve Kerr won't watch the video. Doesn't want to see it. Wishes he could understand it. Can't imagine he ever will.

Twenty bullets went flying, someone was killed and Kerr recoils at the thought of it.

Like many around the world, Kerr has questions he knows won't be answered to full satisfaction. In this particular case, a young father, in his family's backyard, posing no known threat to himself or anyone else, is shot to death by two Sacramento police officers, each firing 10 rounds, much of the incident caught on body cameras.

Immediately afterward, with gunpowder still in the air, one voice, an officer, shouts: "Show me your hands!"

Another officer, maybe a second later, shouts: "Let's see your hands!"

The young man, Stephon Clark, a 22-year-old father of two, apparently was too dead to expose his hands.

The body count from shootings, no matter who or how or where, always seems to touch Kerr. As a survivor of gun violence, he has become a fierce gun-control advocate. He talks the talk. Over the weekend, he literally walked the walk.

The March For Our Lives, a national event orchestrated by groups of students across America, with survivors of the Feb. 14 massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla. at its genesis, occurred in numerous Bay Area cities on Saturday. Kerr and his family dived in.

"(Saturday) was really inspiring. I marched in Oakland with my family," he says. "Saw a lot of wonderful people out there. The speeches nationwide by so many young people were really inspiring.

"What's really hopeful is that it feels like a tipping point right now. This does not feel like business as usual. The key is the marches have to lead to further action, which mainly, is getting everybody to register to vote. And getting everybody to vote."

Kerr is among several NBA coaches -- most notably San Antonio's Gregg Popovich and Detroit's Stan Van Gundy -- willing to speak out on political issues, knowing there will be a mixed response. Add Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, who on Thursday spoke with passion and humanity after the shooting of Clark led to non-violent demonstrations in downtown Sacramento that prevented fans from entering Golden 1 Center for the Kings-Hawks game.

They're in a league that stands with them.

Bullets fly, people die and an ever-growing number of folks have had enough.

Kerr announced on March 12, while addressing a crowd during a town hall gathering in Newark, that he planned to participate in the March For Our Lives. He has spent the past five weeks, ever since the Parkland massacre, advocating voter involvement.

"Historically, if we're not being represented by our government, then we vote," he says. "So get out and vote. That's the main message."

Kerr recites some stats from memory, such as 97 percent of Americans, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, are in favor of universal background checks of those attempting to buy guns.

Yet the gun culture continues shedding blood in many parts of the country, whether it's a teenager yanking a weapon out of the home and taking it to school with evil intentions or a trigger-happy peace officer using deadly force against unarmed citizens, as happened with Clark.

The Sacramento officers confronted Clark while searching for someone allegedly breaking car windows, according to news reports. They didn't know if he had done anything, but he was in the wrong area at the wrong time. He was carrying nothing more dangerous than his girlfriend's cell phone, which the police say was mistaken for a weapon.

Once the body cam footage was released, Clark's family and thousands of others marched to downtown Sacramento and obscured a basketball game that, in the wake of tragedy, felt small and trivial. Making no judgments, Ranadive in his own way asked us to end the insanity.

The NBA applauded Ranadive's statement. With league approval, members of the Kings and Celtics on Sunday unveiled public service announcements and wore T-shirts, with NBA approval, to urge unity and show support for the Clark family.

That same perspective follows Kerr, whose father, Malcolm, was assassinated in 1984 at American University in Beirut. It haunts him. It is why he coaches world events alongside basketball. Video sessions at Warriors practices sometimes offer a dash of sociopolitical commentary as well as an example of why the Dallas Mavericks got back-to-back uncontested layups.

The playoffs are approaching and the defending champion Warriors' relatively feeble state was on full display in a 110-91 home loss to Utah on Sunday. Kerr's team is hurting, with four All-Stars fighting various aches, pains and injuries.

The coach is clear-eyed enough to see America is hurting more than his team.

There have been dozens of demonstrations in recent months related to men and women and children whose lives were snuffed out by unnecessary use of firearms.

There have been dozens of demonstrations and discussions and town halls in recent weeks related to the massacre in which 17 men, women and children were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

As much as Kerr gets fired up over basketball -- he picked up a technical foul Sunday night after arguing a non-call a bit too vociferously for referee Bennie Adams -- there is considerably more imaginary steam coming from the coach's ears when he implores American citizens to take action against injustice.

"Looking at this issue in particular, 97 percent of Americans want universal background checks. Basically all of us," he says. "We don't have ‘em. Two of every three people (63 percent according to a USA Today poll last month) want to ban semi-automatic weapons. We don't have that. So we're not being represented by our government."

His simple request sounds more like beseeching. When injustices are committed, do something. When war weapons can be purchased at the corner gun shop or a gun show in an auditorium, even by someone with a checkered mental health history, it's time to get involved. Pick a side and let history judge it.

"This is how America works," Kerr says. "It's how the civil rights movement worked. It's how Vietnam worked. You get the old establishment and they've got their money and their power. And people get fed up and go, ‘You know what, you're out.'

"So everybody needs to get out and vote and make this their issue. Lets protect each other. Protect our kids. Sensible gun laws, it's going to happen and it's on its way and it's exciting and the young generation is leading us."

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