The Sixers young, internationally-based cast gives the team an interesting perspective on the country they live in and what we’re going through right now. Brett Brown coached in Australia for years, and three of his brightest prospects hail from outside the states. Between Australia’s Ben Simmons, Croatia’s Dario Saric, and Cameroon’s Joel Embiid, there’s a worldly set of views converging.
The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski cut right to the chase in an interview conducted with Embiid that released this morning. With this week’s election result hanging over their heads, Woj asked Embiid about what it’s been like to confront the reality of America vs. what he thought it was like as a child growing up in Africa. His response is worth considering:
Growing up in Cameroon, I’ve always thought that the U.S. was just amazing, and it was just a dream. I thought it was heaven. And then coming here a couple years ago, the U.S. is still nice, but it’s not like what I thought it was going to be. With the election going on, and Donald Trump just got elected... I just feel like, I don’t usually get into politics, but with the way he’s been acting and talking about racism or women, it’s just hard to understand why people elected him.
It just shows you the way people think, and I feel like racism isn’t over. People are still behind him, people still want to, I don’t know, talk about it or their actions toward it. It’s just a shame.
The media made it seem like he was just going to be really bad and like the world was over, but I feel like it’s not going to be as bad as people make it out to be. I hope it’s not going to be like that.
Even with his positive nature shining through at the end, that’s a pretty rough assessment from a guy who usually keeps things light and upbeat. Like many Americans around the country, Embiid finds it hard to comprehend the results of this process.
As regular readers of this blog should know and often joke / get angsty about, I’m with him. Some of your lives or the lives of people you love and care about have the potential to be dramatically impacted by this election. For a lot of us on the LB staff, it has been hard to focus on or care about basketball these last few days, and that’s with the caveat that most of us will be among those least affected by the outcome.
Many of you come here for an escape from the “real world” and to focus strictly on hoops. I sympathize with that and try to live up to that to an extent, but by now you’re aware that isn’t my M.O.
This is not the place for policy talk, but it is an avenue for us to connect and promote messages that need to be heard. The NBA is a cultural melting pot unlike that of other sports leagues, and so the intersection of the sport with cultural issues is starker than with other leagues. You get perspectives from players of all calibers hailing from the likes of Argentina, Germany, and China. There are men who rose from poverty and privileged sons of ex-NBA players.
You can apply those same characteristics to our readership. At this point, we reach people all around the world, in Indiana and Iceland, in college dorm rooms and law firm offices. The reason I try to promote that type of discussion here is because we already have one interest that unites us, which is a first step a lot of people never take.
Let’s try to use that for something good. For starters — Max and Jim Adair have a t-shirt shop many of you know and love in OptionaliTEES. They decided to use that format to make a difference — if you purchase this design, all the profits will be sent to Attic Youth Center, a foundation that provides services and programs for LGBTQ youth in Philadelphia. The kids they help are often just looking for a refuge where they feel safe, and you can help provide that for young people in your favorite team’s hometown.
There will be hordes of vulnerable people who feel that same need for a refuge in the days, weeks, and months to come. I ask that even if it’s outside what you know and experience, you try to understand and listen to people who will need somewhere to turn, who do need to see these things confronted even as they intersect with an escape like basketball. As we’ve shown the last few years, Sixers fans can be a staunchly unified bunch, and we can use that not just to canonize Sam Hinkie but also to bring some good into the world.
Even someone like Embiid — afforded an opportunity to become an overnight millionaire in this country because of his talent — can see larger forces and how they are impacting the world around him. Like Embiid, all of us will hope that the worst predictions and assumptions won’t come true. But it’s hard work and open dialogue, not turning a blind eye, that will prevent it from happening.