Stan Van Gundy refuses to stick to sports. Not when the reputations of those he considers to be “role models of American patriotism” is at stake.
The Pistons head coach wrote a powerful op-ed for TIME magazine Tuesday in which he applauds the growing number of athletes who have put their job security at stake by fighting against racism and social injustice through national anthem protests.
In the wake of many of these athletes receiving hateful criticism from fans and politicians, Van Gundy wrote he had an “obligation” to speak out.
“In a time where bigotry seems on the rise and commitment to racial equality on the decline,” Van Gundy wrote,” I have an obligation as a citizen to speak out and to support, in any way possible, those brave and patriotic athletes who are working to bring change to our country. I believe all of us do.”
Stan Van Gundy penned a powerful op-ed Tuesday.
Van Gundy later described how he invited Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, author of Tears We Cannot Stop; A Sermon to White America, to speak to his team. The 58-year-old coach said Dyson’s talk helped him understand there is a difference between nationalism and patriotism — something that is overlooked by those who have criticized athletes who protest during the anthem.
“Nationalism, he said, is supporting your country no matter what, right or wrong. Patriotism, on the other hand, is caring so deeply about your country that you take it as your duty to hold it accountable to its highest values and to fight to make it the very best it can be,” Van Gundy wrote.
“Under this definition, these athletes and coaches are role models of American patriotism.”
Member of the San Francisco 49ers kneel and stand during the playing of the National Anthem.
Van Gundy goes on to write that one should not criticize these players and insinuate they are dishonoring the military or the American flag, as they are simply exercising their freedom of speech.
“Honoring America has to mean much, much more than standing at attention for a song,” Van Gundy wrote.
This isn’t the first time Van Gundy has publicly shared his stance on the national anthem protests. In the days after Donald Trump suggested owners should “get that son of a bitch off the field” if a player doesn’t stand for the anthem, Van Gundy said in a statement he stands with “those opposing such bigotry” and “applauds” players who choose to protest.
Olivier Vernon kneels during the national anthem.
(Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Van Gundy ended his powerful op-ed with a call to action, asking others to publicly support players who are risking their livelihood by bringing awareness to social injustice through protest.
“These athletes could take the easy route and not placed their livelihoods at risk by standing up for what they believe in. They’ve put in their hard work. They could accept their paychecks and live lives of luxury,” Van Gundy wrote. “Instead, they are risking their jobs to speak up for those who have no voice. They are working to make America live up to its stated ideals. We should all join them in ensuring their collective voice is heard.”