Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the people in sports are just that – people. They are people just like the rest of us, people with human emotions that are tucked away most of the time in the interest of entertaining us.
Every so often, though, they surface.
Two very good examples reside in the San Francisco Bay area. They are Steve Kerr, coach of the NBA Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors and Gabe Kapler, manager of the San Francisco Giants.
Both Kerr and Kapler looked around last week when 19 children and two teachers were slaughtered in a Texas school and decided to put aside their sports personas for something more important.
In his pre-playoff game meeting with the press, Kerr gave an impassioned plea for gun reform, a topic more important than dribbles and drives.
His emotional speech ended with him pounding the table in front of him and then walking off the podium. There would be no discussion of zone defenses or man-to-man defenses. Not on this day. Not when those children and their teachers had been murdered.
Kerr knows something about this topic. His father was assassinated in 1984 in Beirut. That kind of wound never goes away. It lives in the heart forever and probably explains in small measure, Kerr’s passion over the killings in Texas.
Meanwhile, Kapler chose a different route. He decided that until things change in this country, until children and teachers are safe in their classrooms, he will stay in the Giants’ clubhouse during the playing of the National Anthem.
Kapler called it “the direction of our country,’’ and he wasn’t talking only about Uvalde, Texas. The shooting there was the 27th school shooting this year. The direction he was talking about was how America is awash in guns, good, old fashioned weaponry, too often aimed at innocent children.
Kapler’s decision brought to mind the protest of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the Anthem set off a firestorm and led to him unable to find work in the league, even though he had led his team to the Super Bowl a couple of years earlier.
Other athletes and coaches have spoken out about this epidemic. Lebron James, probably the best NBA player of his generation, has been particularly vocal. That offended conservative broadcaster Laura Ingraham, who admonished him, saying “Shut up and dribble.’’
Sorry, but when there are more guns in this country than there are people, shutting up is not what some men of conscience are willing to do.