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Steve Kerr and gun reform

Steve Kerr is no stranger to politics. Not in the traditional, elected office, but the machinery of policy and power that both maintains and more notably corrodes our social condition. His father was a former professor of political science and later the president of the American University of Beirut, where he was assassinated by political extremists. And his son Steve, a former NBA guard but perhaps more notable as the head coach of the multiple time NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, has used his platform to speak publicly on hot button political issues in the US, typically with eloquence and considerable fortitude.

Last night was another example of that. Before game four of his team’s Western Conference Championship matchup against Dallas, Kerr gave an impassioned and pointed speech about the need for gun laws. He called out congress and Mitch McConnell specifically, particularly in their inability to even vote on the fairly weak legislation sitting in front of them. He did that, then said they’d play tonight’s game against the Mavericks with heavy hearts, then he left for the locker room. For the record, the Warriors lost, but still hold a commanding 3-1 series lead and will inevitably overpower and outmanned Dallas squad to get to the finals, probably Thursday night in the Bay area.

Kerr wasn’t the only coach or athlete to speak publicly last night, but he was one of the most effective with the biggest platform. His consistency on this particular issue gave him perhaps a bit more credence with the public. And to be blunt, when your father was assassinated by gunfire point blank at a university, your voice may resonate just a bit further on this topic. It does seem clear that when Steve Kerr talks about gun violence, it’s not a passing fancy and it certainly isn’t for style points.

Of course, no one expects that because an NBA basketball coach speaks out about gun violence, America will somehow come to its senses and join the rest of the civilized world. The ghost of Vince Lombardi could make an appeal, but as long as Neanderthals like Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz are allowed to hold us all hostage, it won’t move the needle. Not that athletes and coaches don’t have impact. Whether it’s Jackie Robinson, Billy Jean King, and long list of others, sports figures can spark change. Just think about Title IX, for example. But it typically happens over years, or decades even. And quite often that change is relegated to sport. Which is probably why some athletes – take Bill Bradley, for example – leave the sports world for politics, where decisions are made. That’s not to say that Steve Kerr’s voice dies in the ether. It’s simply that it’s really hard to get politicians to care about anything other than their own re-election. If a room full of slaughtered 10-year-olds doesn’t move your soul, assuming there is one, then I’m guessing a pre-game press conference won’t do much.

Perhaps that leads to the obvious question to anyone in or around sports. Is there anything that they can do, people with positions of prominence if not power, at least not in the legislative sense. Is there anything that Steve Kerr, or any other coach or athlete can do – and let’s be honest, his voice was one of few last night denouncing politicians for their feckless rationalizations around gun laws, far less than I’d hope for a generation of athletes that self-identify as activists who don’t stick to sports. That aside, can Steve Kerr and more like him make a difference, can they do something that advocates and lobbyists and families of murdered children not accomplish? Particularly when it comes to guns and the US, it’s hard to be optimistic about anything. But I do think that collective action by leagues and its stars could certainly could put gun nuts on the defensive. I think NBA and NFL driven campaigns could help. More broadly, maybe Universities could cancel a week of college football, or even high schools could cancel championships to make legislators take notice. Of course, that would assume and require people to believe that there’s actually a problem, which doesn’t seem that apparent.

Which is why Steve Kerr’s plea, as moving as it was, will probably accomplish little. And why if he really wants to change gun laws, and I know he does, he may actually want to run for elected office. As we know, Steve Kerr is no stranger to politics.

Keith Strudler is the director of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. You can follow him on twitter at @KeithStrudler

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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