Warriors' Steph Curry Cements Himself as Social Justice Leader in NBA

Steph Curry stood on a makeshift stage on the campus of Howard University on Monday afternoon to announce his latest venture. 

Over the next six years, the Warriors star will fund the university's golf program, helping the Bison field a Division I team for the first time in school history. The commitment is expected to revitalize both the men and women's programs at the historically black university. 

Throughout his career, Curry has been supplanted in the national conversation by LeBron James and others as the basketball leader of social change. But in recent years, the six-time All-Star has become among the leaders on a variety of issues. With his latest contribution to the historically black institution, Curry is proving why he should be among the leading NBA voices in social justice. 

The guard's relationship with the university started in January, when Curry hosted a screening of Emanuel - a documentary about the Emanuel AME Church shooting that he produced. Curry's latest contribution to the university includes a seven-figure endorsement to the golf program that will be paid out in installments to give Howard time to raise an endowment fund to make the golf program self-sustainable. 

"This is one of the most generous gifts in the history of Howard University," athletic director Kery Davis said.

Curry's contribution to Howard is historically on-brand. The opening of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) started in the 1800s as more of a necessity for blacks. With African Americans barred from attending white schools, black churches -- with the help of the American Missionary Association and the Freedmen's Bureau -- helped build and advance a black education. From 1861 to 1900, more than 90 black colleges were established, including Howard in 1867. Now, more than 150 years later, Curry, a black man, is helping advance the university through sports.

Prior to Curry's involvement, Howard fielded a Division II team that was discontinued in the 1970s. With Curry's financing, the Bison men's team will play in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, while the women will play as independents. In addition, the teams will be outfitted by Under Armour -- the shoe company Curry endorses -- and will have three scholarship athletes, an idea that was born on the night of the January premiere. 

"The idea around re-creating Howard's golf team and turning it into a Division I program for men and women was born on that specific night," Curry said. "Now, seven and a half or eight months later, we're here."

For the last half-decade, James has been at the forefront of the NBA's social justice conversation. In 2014, days after black teen Trayvon Martin was gunned down in Florida by George Zimmerman, James -- along with his Miami Heat teammates -- posted a picture in team-issued hoodies. Two years later, standing beside Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul, James opened the ESPYs by condemning police brutality. Recently, James has put his money behind change, opening the I Promise school in Akron, OH. Before last season, James even defended Curry on Twitter, calling President Donald Trump a "bum" after Trump "disinvited" the Warriors from the White House after they won the 2017 title. 

While James has been (correctly) celebrated for his actions, Curry has been putting together a portfolio of his own. The guard has been a part of former President Barack Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative aimed at addressing "persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential." Just before last season, Curry raised more than $21,000 for the family of Oakland native Nia Wilson, who was stabbed to death at a BART station. 

Even before his actions against social change were public, seeds of Curry's activism were beginning to manifest. Before Game 5 of an NBA first-round playoff series against the Clippers -- during the Donald Sterling saga -- Curry was among a group of players ready to boycott a game if the owner wasn't banned by NBA commissioner Adam Silver. 

"I remember everybody talking like if Adam Silver don't come down with a tough enough post and we don't think it's right, we're not playing tonight," Warriors forward Draymond Green said.

Added former Warrior Andre Iguodala: "If it came to it, I think we were ready. We were willing and ready."

Curry's absence from James' stature may be his own doing. While marketed as a clean-cut, baby-faced player that appealed to children, Curry's voice noticeably was absent when he gave a PC answer when asked about a North Carolina bathroom bill that discriminated against transgender people, drawing the ire of LGBT groups. 

Ironically, Trump might be simultaneously both the uniting force and a call to action players like Curry needed to grow their voice. Two weeks after Trump was inaugurated, then-Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank said that the President could be an "asset" to the United States. Curry then joked that said he agreed with the notion, "if you remove the ‘et'" from asset, even saying he'd reconsider his deal with Under Armour.

"If there is a situation where I can look at myself in the mirror and say they don't have my best intentions, they don't have the right attitude about taking care of people," Curry told The Mercury News in 2017. "If I can say the leadership is not in line with my core values, then there is no amount of money, there is no platform I wouldn't jump off if it wasn't in line with who I am. So that's a decision I will make every single day when I wake up. If something is not in line with what I'm about, then, yeah, I definitely need to take a stance in that respect."

[RELATED: Warriors were ready to boycott game after Sterling tape]

Twenty-one months ago, Curry's former teammate Kevin Durant sat along the north baseline of the Warriors practice facility and openly pondered his identity as a black man in this country 

"Finally waking up, to be honest," Durant said. "Just kind of seeing how rough it is for an average black man."

"I see how far we get pushed down. For me, I kind of grew up in this basketball world, whereas my talent kind of overrides what I look like."

Like Durant, Curry took time to find his voice. And now, after yet another contribution, he should be among the NBA's faces for social justice. 

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