Van Gundy writes piece de­fend­ing an­them pro­test­ers

Coach de­fends rights of play­ers to speak out on in­jus­tice

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY ROD BEARD The Detroit News Rod.Beard@de­troit­ Twit­

— Pis­tons pres­i­dent-coach Stan Van Gundy has taken strong stances in re­cent years about his views on po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues. He fa­mously vented on the day af­ter Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump was elected last year and has been out­spo­ken about many is­sues, in­clud­ing protests by ath­letes about racial and so­cial in­jus­tices.

He made a new foray, au­thor­ing an op-ed for Time Mag­a­zine: “Detroit Pis­tons Coach: Ath­letes Who Protest Are Pa­tri­ots,” which was pub­lished on­line Tues­day morn­ing.

“In a time where big­otry seems on the rise and com­mit­ment to racial equal­ity on the de­cline, 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,” Van Gundy wrote. “I be­lieve all of us do.”

He men­tioned the harsh crit­i­cism hurled at play­ers from the NFL and WNBA for tak­ing a knee or rais­ing a fist and dis­agreed with the no­tion that those silent forms of protest dis­honor the coun­try be­cause they came dur­ing the na­tional an­them.

The Pis­tons play­ers had sim­i­lar sen­ti­ments, but af­ter invit­ing noted au­thor Dr. Michael Eric Dyson to speak to the team dur­ing train­ing camp, Van Gundy and the team got an ed­u­ca­tion, es­pe­cially in the dif­fer­ence be­tween na­tion­al­ism and pa­tri­o­tism, and the is­sues with he calls “racist lan­guage” in the later verses of “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner.”

Van Gundy said he took about four hours to write the piece, which he com­pleted on the plane ride back from Los An­ge­les dur­ing their three-game road trip in Oc­to­ber.

It was his first time he’s ever been pub­lished in a na­tional pub­li­ca­tion, but he wanted to get some of the is­sues off his chest and not of­fend.

“All I was try­ing to do in that — and I don’t think I was overly crit­i­cal of any­body — was to try to show sup­port for the play­ers,” Van Gundy said af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice.

“I’m re­ally proud of guys who have spo­ken up. There are too many peo­ple now, es­pe­cially young peo­ple, who haven’t got­ten in­volved enough and haven’t had enough to say.

“I do agree with them on ev­ery­thing they say, but even if you don’t, you should have re­spect that these guys are out there in a peace­ful way, talk­ing about is­sues that are im­por­tant to them and with great per­sonal sac­ri­fice.”

Van Gundy got some back- Tip-off: 8 tonight, BMO Har­ris Bradley Cen­ter, Milwaukee TV/ra­dio: FSD/WWJ Out­look: The Pis­tons (10-3) have won five straight and are off to their best start since 2008. They beat the Bucks (7-6) in the first meet­ing, 10596, on Nov. 3. lash for his crit­i­cism of Pres­i­dent Trump in the past but said this piece wasn’t di­rected at him. In­stead, he was try­ing to voice his sup­port of the play­ers coali­tion that has worked to bring light to the is­sues.

“Other than the fact that some peo­ple just think no one should protest even, I didn’t go af­ter any­body; I was just supporting their causes and more than any­thing, their right to protest,” Van Gundy said. “I do think that’s what our coun­try’s all about and our val­ues are all about. They value those peo­ple who fought for those free­doms by ex­er­cis­ing those free­doms.”

“I meant what I said: Our coun­try was founded on protests. If it was just ‘ Shut up and honor your coun­try, no mat­ter what,’ we’d still be fly­ing the Union Jack. That’s not what our found­ing fa­thers did — they didn’t like what was go­ing on and they broke away and formed their own coun­try.”

Stan­ley John­son (back) and Jon Leuer (sprained left an­kle) prac­ticed but Van Gundy wasn’t sure they’d be avail­able to re­turn for tonight’s matchup against the Bucks, clas­si­fy­ing them as ques­tion­able.

“You know in­juries go: it’s their first day back, so how they feel now isn’t nearly as im­por­tant as how they’re go­ing to feel to­mor­row, com­ing of their first con­tact,” Van Gundy said. “They both looked rusty; they did ev­ery­thing. We’ll see how to­mor­row morn­ing goes and see where we go.”

The re­serve ro­ta­tion con­tin­ues to be a toss-up, with rookie Luke Ken­nard get­ting some ex­tra play­ing time — and giv­ing his best pro­duc­tion, with 14 points. Van Gundy was most im­pressed with Ken­nard’s de­fense, though, es­pe­cially with a tough as­sign­ment on the Heat’s Dion Waiters.

While Ken­nard has been re­garded for his of­fense, the de­fense he plays could dic­tate whether he gets more reg­u­lar play­ing time.

“He did okay. Luke played a good, solid de­fen­sive game,” Van Gundy said. “That was the thing that made me the hap­pi­est. We needed his points too.”

Clarence Tabb Jr./Detroit News

Stan­ley John­son prac­ticed Tues­day but it’s un­cer­tain if he’ll play tonight in Milwaukee.

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