A former NBA player and current activist and MSNBC commentator returns with a collection of dozens of interviews on the subject of race in America—all supporting the efforts of athletes to speak out and up.
Thomas, who has published a volume of poetry (More Than an Athlete, 2005) and a memoir (Fatherhood: Rising to the Ultimate Challenge, 2012), interviews a wide assortment of voices, including media personalities (Chris Hayes, Soledad O’Brien), basketball legends (Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), current stars (Dwayne Wade, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony), intellectuals (Michael Eric Dyson), and family members of young blacks killed by the police (Trayvon Martin’s brother, Eric Garner’s daughter). The commentators offer experiences and opinions that range from wrenching to unsurprising to thought-provoking. Several themes are present throughout: people in the public eye must speak up; athletes need to be more active (there is much praise here for Colin Kaepernick and much condemnation for OJ Simpson—not because of murder but because of his failure to speak up for social justice when he could have made a difference); we must educate black children, not just in the traditional school subjects, but in techniques of survival in a society and a justice system severely tilted against them. A number of interview subjects, as well as Thomas, also argue strenuously for salaries for college athletes. Most poignant are the conversations with the surviving family members of slain black youth, Martin and Garner among them. Throughout the collection, there are many instances of deep, abiding grief and determination to work to prevent injustices from happening to others. The author is a genial interviewer; there are no contrarians here, and no conversations display any real disagreement or rancor. Other interviewees include Mark Cuban, Steve Kerr, Tamika Catchings, Michael Wilbon, Laila Ali, and Jemele Hill.
Voices of pain, anger, and hope resound through these pages—and through the reader’s heart.