Heat Stars Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic Discuss Racism in Town Hall Meeting

Jesse Pantuosco
June 20, 2020 - 1:06 pm

A number of Miami Heat players including stars Jimmy Butler and Goran Dragic gathered for a Zoom “town hall” Friday in celebration of Juneteenth, a holiday commemorating the end of slavery in 1865. The tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breona Taylor have sparked a national dialogue about racial prejudice and the challenges faced by African Americans on a daily basis. Butler, a five-time NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, described a past racist encounter in his native Texas when a young child called him a racial slur while shopping at Walmart.

“A white man and his son, who is no older than maybe six—I'm walking with my brother, and we hear the kid turn around and say, 'Hey, Dad, those are those n-words that you are telling me about,’” said Butler, who was 16 when the incident happened. “Everybody is being taught this hate, and it is super hurtful. You know the difference between right and wrong. For that parent to teach his kid at that young of an age, there is no other word for it except for wrong.”

Cognizant of his “white privilege,” Meyers Leonard knows he can’t begin to understand what Butler and his other black teammates have gone through battling racial prejudice throughout their lives. “It's hard to understand because I'm white,” said the eighth-year center. “It doesn't matter if I grew up with nothing. I still have white privilege."

Slovenian-born Goran Dragic acknowledged he’s coming from a slightly different vantage point. “In our part of the world, it was more racism by religion,” said the veteran point guard. “It's crazy now that I'm here in the States, I need to teach my kids both ways. It doesn't matter what religion, which country you are from or what kind of color you are.”

Piggybacking off Butler’s remarks, Solomon Hill said his appearance has led to a number of uncomfortable experiences. For a time, Hill cut his hair short so no one would feel the need to touch it. “Having my hair long, having a 'fro, I do have a different texture than most people, and people just coming up and touching my hair like I'm some dog that is being walked,” said Hill. “I never could have imagined myself walking up to a little white girl and just touching her hair randomly in a shopping center. That is, like, the opposite of what any black man should ever do, but it was commonplace for people to come up and touch my hair and normalize how different it was.”

Race used to be a taboo subject in sports but empowered black athletes have become increasingly vocal of late including former MLB All-Star Torii Hunter, who admitted his contract contained a no-trade clause to the Red Sox, citing past racist experiences playing at Fenway Park. The candor shown by Butler and others who have been on the receiving end of racism should help further the conversation as America seeks to drown out bigotry once and for all.

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