BBL’s Pharroh Gordon explains why he no longer takes a knee and calls for progress in fight for change


1:25 Former Glasgow Rocks captain Kieron Achara says he is saddened but not shocked by the racist abuse that forced three players to move home

A team statement detailed how David Mpondo, Julius van Sauers and Marc Kwedi had been threatened, referred to as ‘monkeys’, had their car vandalised and that calls had been made to the police claiming they had prostitutes in their house.

Responding to the incident on Twitter, the BBL wrote: “We were appalled to learn of the abhorrent racist abuse levelled at these players. As a league, we fully support and stand with all in our community in the fight against racism.”

“At that time because it was very quickly after I said I wouldn’t (take a knee) but it just reminded me we needed to do more,” said Gordon. “What that is is to be confirmed. They shouldn’t have to go through that. It all comes down to we need to start doing something more.”

August will mark five years since former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick opted to sit for the US national anthem prior to the San Francisco 49ers’ first preseason game, something that over the following weeks would evolve into him taking a knee.

Kaepernick was booed by some as his protest against police brutality and racial oppression was misconstrued by many as a sign of disrespect to the military and the American flag.

Then-president Donald Trump became a prominent supporter of that sentiment, urging team owners at the time to fire players that protested. The NFL itself also failed to support Kaepernick’s message at the time, introducing a policy requiring all players to stand during the anthem or stay in the locker room.

Gordon remembers the period well having been Stateside on scholarship at William Jewell College.

“I was in New York at the time. Kaepernick took the knee and two days later I was in the physio room and a coach asked what we thought of it, I told him what I thought and his response was kind of just like if he doesn’t like it why doesn’t he just leave? Why doesn’t he go to Africa or wherever where he thinks it’s better?’,” Gordon recalled.

“I was pretty taken aback because I’d never heard him talk like that before or express any viewpoints like that before but I guess that’s kind of like the casual ideology.

“He started talking about the national anthem when they’re talking about the battle and stuff, saying ‘an American would come and hold the flag and then if he got hit the next one would come and hold the flag’. I was like, ‘this just isn’t the conversation we’re meant to be having right now’.

“It’s all well and good talking about people fighting for their freedoms and then fast forward to today the majority of people aren’t ‘free’.”

While able to recognise growth in support and understanding for Kaepernick’s true intentions, Gordon remains frustrated by similar misconceptions continuing to hinder the push for progress closer to home.

He cites seeing the real focus of peaceful Black Lives Matter protests in the UK last summer being overshadowed by claims of COVID rules being broken, property being damaged and the movement being politicised.

“Immediately the attention gets taken away from the actual issue and put on why the issue that’s being raised is somehow controversial,” he explains. “It’s like ‘Why are we wasting time and energy about whether this is the right way to do things when the real thing we need to be talking about is over here not getting spoken about?’

“It’s like we’re not really engaging with the actual issue and if we all try and focus more on that maybe we’d actually get something done.”

Then comes the tough question. Taking a knee has undoubtedly raised awareness regarding racial oppression and inequality, but what comes next?

“It’s hard for me to say,” admits Gordon. “Maybe it’s pushing stuff to schools but again maybe that’s just more of what we’ve already been doing.

“What I would like to see is for representatives from the league or members of each team to come together and collaborate and talk about this stuff, maybe somebody out there does have a great idea but just doesn’t have a platform to speak on it and maybe they’ve said something to their GM but it hasn’t gotten brought up in a BBL meeting or board meeting.

“The more heads on this there are the better. It isn’t something that is going to get fixed overnight or get a brilliant idea that’s going to fix everything. It’s going to take a lot of work.

“Starting that as a collaborative effort with ultimate transparency and communication, that’s at least where we can start. And hopefully sooner rather than later we decide on an appropriate course of action.”

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