“I'm Just Not Afraid Anymore” USD Grad David Fizdale Among NBA Coaches Seeking Change

The former Knicks and Grizzlies head coach is on a committee whose aim is to seek racial justice and reform.

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The emotions David Fizdale has felt in recent weeks are ones he is familiar with.

“The first part of it was just utter sadness.”

The former University of San Diego basketball player and assistant coach was in high school in 1991 when he saw the violent acts of four LAPD officers against Rodney King.

“We watched that man get beaten to an inch of his life and it brought all of those feelings back,” Fizdale said on Tuesday. “It just reminded me of all of that turmoil.”

Turmoil that has returned in the last week, with protests and clashes taking place in San Diego, his hometown of Los Angeles, and across the country.

“Hopefully this isn’t an outrage reaction, that this is something that's going to continue and eventually turn into legislation. It brings me great pride to see that.”

He is encouraged by the outpouring of support, especially from the white community. However, beneath that is a man disheartened by the lack of change since he protested as a teenager.

“It's scary that this is still happening 28 years later.”

In a response to the murder of George Floyd, the National Basketball Coaches Association formed a committee for racial injustice and reform. Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce approached NBCA President Rick Carlisle with the idea. Fizdale - a former coach of the Knicks and Grizzlies - is included, along with other notable coaches like Doc Rivers, Gregg Popvich and Steve Kerr.

“All of them just felt just utter disgust, and just a collective feeling of enough. “If we're real leaders we have to step up right now.”

It started with a statement they released Monday, in which they called out racism and police brutality, and expressed their commitment to effect change. Fizdale said that awareness is one part. Their next meeting will focus on collaborations with other groups and organizations to aid in their central cause.

“What are the necessary steps to impact social injustices and police reform?”

The committee has already given coaches more confidence in their freedom to speak out on social issues.

“No one should be silenced or feel afraid of losing their livelihood or having their career damaged,” Fizdale said.

That was dilemma he faced as head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2016. That fall Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem to call attention to police brutality. Fizdale and his team decided not to do so themselves.

“There's a huge part of me that regrets not kneeling, because what if we all kneeled in that moment? Would we be here now? I don't know.”

What he does know is that with his platform to create change, he is no longer afraid to take action. Fizdale id proud to be surrounded by fellow coaches who feel the same way. Coaches who hope to take steps toward fixing a problem that he has seen for far too long.

“We shouldn't be here having to talk about this, not to this extent, not to this level. “It's a sad day for our country.”

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