Having failed to spend his life living in a world where hatred is just another entertainment vehicle, Steve Kerr seemed baffled by the developments of Tuesday night. An election built on tapping into anger by someone who has made his fame by understanding and even fomenting it was well outside his wheelhouse – as a coach, and as a human being.
Kerr spoke, as has basically every citizen with voice to do so, on the election that changed what we think of ourselves and the end of our pretenses. He found the electoral process ugly and offensive, and though he tried to steer a careful course, events have overtaken him, as we learn to live in a new and more brutish world.
The standard-bearer for the NBA’s rank-and-file sentiment was Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who emptied out on the segments of the nation he can no longer fathom. As recorded by the Detroit Free Press’ Vince Ellis, Van Gundy said the words that allowed Kerr’s entrance into the subject greater ease of passage.
Indeed, the highlights of Van Gundy’s midday soliloquy, in which he declined a chance to even discuss the Pistons’ game with Phoenix, render Kerr’s remarks tame.
“For our country to be where we are now, who took a guy who -- I don’t care what anyone says, I’m sure they have other reasons and maybe good reasons for voting for Donald Trump -- but I don’t think anybody can deny this guy is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic and ethnic-centric, and say, ‘That’s OK with us, we’re going to vote for him anyway,’ Van Gundy said.
“Martin Luther King said, ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice.’ I would have believed in that for a long time, but not today . . . What we have done to minorities . . . in this election is despicable.
“I understand problems with the economy. I understand all the problems with Hillary Clinton, I do. But certain things in our country should disqualify you, and the fact that millions and millions of Americans don’t think that racism and sexism disqualifies you to be our leader, in our country . . . We presume to tell other countries about human-rights abuses and everything else. We better never do that again, when our leaders talk to China or anybody else about human-rights abuses. We just elected an openly, brazen misogynist leader and we should keep our mouths shut and realize that we need to be learning maybe from the rest of the world, because we don’t got anything to teach anybody.”
On the other hand, Alabama coach Nick Saban claimed he didn’t know there was an election on Tuesday, which we can assume is a self-protective fib that allows him to avoid the thicket that Van Gundy strode into without fear or hesitation.
Kerr was somewhat less florid, but his message was essentially Van Gundy’s. He had held a morning meeting and let his players express feelings that one player charitably described as “weird,” and though he didn’t elaborate on what was discussed or the form it took, he had his own view, and centered on the gradual but clear disintegration of political discourse.
“I thought it took a lot of guts for Stan to say what he did. I think a lot of us feel similarly. For me, probably the biggest disappointment with this whole election was the level of discourse. There should be some level of decorum, respect and dignity that goes with the election of the presidency. It went out the window. Maybe we should’ve seen it coming over the last 10 years. You look at society, you look at what’s popular. People are getting paid millions of dollars to go on TV and scream at each other, whether it’s in sports, politics and entertainment. I guess it was only a matter of time before it spilled into politics,” he said. “But then all of a sudden you’re faced with a reality that the man who is going to lead you has routinely used racist, misogynistic, insulting words.
“It’s tough when you want there to be some respect and dignity. There hasn’t been any. You walk into a room with your daughter and your wife who have basically been insulted by his comments. And they’re distraught. You walk in and see the faces of the players who have been insulted directly as minorities, it’s sort of shocking. It really is.”
“We talked about it as a team this morning. I don’t know what else to say. Just the whole process has left us feeling disgusted and disappointed. I thought we were better than this. I thought The Jerry Springer Show was The Jerry Springer show. Watching the last debate, Trump would make a crack at Clinton, and you’d hear the fans in the stands ‘Oooooh, oh, no, he didn’t.’ ‘Oh, yes he did. This is a presidential election, not The Jerry Springer Show.”
Well, no. It’s actually worse, as Warrior forward David West said earlier in the day.
“I just think a lot of the things that he was saying publicly, a majority of this country feels privately and they proved it through their vote. The things that he said, the things that he represented, that’s the way a majority of this nation feels. I think he just emboldened them because he was willing to say it publicly and he got the platform.
“Just about every sort of political group you could name, folks agreed with his positions — and you can’t deny that because folks voted for him. So, I think, throw that on the table. This whole fairytale about some post-racial, this utopia that (Barack) Obama supposedly created is all it’s all bull. That’s the bottom line when you look at what the results say from last night. This nation has not moved a thread in terms of its ideals.”
How this chapter in American history turns out is anyone’s guess, depending on the cheeriness of one’s outlook. Perhaps there is a Trump we haven’t seen yet, one who can work the milieu of anger as fuel, one who can actually grow from the man whose catch phrase meant unemployment. Nobody believes that now, though, and whether the lesson is how far we have fallen as a nation, how uncivil we have become in our daily discourse, or whether we have lost the right to buy into our own loftier impression of ourselves, we are now naked and raw as a nation, stripped of the layers of our illusions, and a nasty winter is coming on.