The Harlem Wizards’ players, staff and support personnel want to express their deep sympathy to the families of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. As an organization, it’s saddened to see the images of such heinous murders. This is very personal for the group as 90 percent of the players are people of color, and this could have been one of them or their family members.
In order for the players to have a platform to collectively share their thoughts and feelings, a Zoom conference call was organized to give Harlem Wizards’ players a voice and outlet to provide their perspective on these issues of inequality and injustice.
Reactions to these horrendous murders was anger, disappointment, resignation, pain, and sadness. The common questions that emerged were: “How do we get past this?” “How can I make it safe for my kids?” “How can I feel completely comfortable and welcome in the USA?” “Will this ever change?”
King Arthur Lewis, Jr., the inspiration for the “Team of We” movement, shared that, “We have to have sustained perseverance, like the 381-day Birmingham bus boycott that ended busing segregation in Birmingham. We can protest and demand equality, but our challenge is to stand up for these things that we believe in while coming from a place of love and inclusion.”
Todd Davis, CEO Harlem Wizards, said, “It was heartbreaking to hear the players’ experience of living a somewhat double life. Respected and beloved while in ‘Wizard’ mode, but subject to a different reality when the uniform is removed. What was gratifying was that the players shared their authentic experiences and came together.”
The key Zoom meeting takeaways included a desire to continue to bring people together through fun, inspiration and exciting trick-hoops, but also a shared hope to go beyond that and to be part of the healing and educational conversation about race relations and the challenges faced as a nation.
“We believe that through our travels around the USA that we have an opportunity and moral obligation to share our thoughts with the millions of students we see each year,” Davis says.
Eric Jones, the longest-tenured Wizard of 22 years and one of the player-coaches said, “As an organization we have entertained fans across the globe for the past 59 years and we have brought families and communities together through basketball. This is not just what we do, this is who we are. This commitment to educating and fostering connection and understanding is a natural next step for the organization, fostered by where we are right now in this national conversation.”
Dwayne “Swoop” Simpson, a 13-year Wizard and a player-coach said, “This is about fair treatment and justice for African-Americans, but it’s also about humanity and making the world a better place for all.”