CA: Speaking to them directly, you realize you are very limited in what you can do. I’ve met with a lot of them, all over the country, and they get it. They understand, like, you know, it’s messed up. They’re like, “We don’t condone that.”
HB: But …
CA: “But at the end of the day, we roll with the blue.” Like, “We’re the boys in blue, and we stick by our code.” And I don’t want to sound crazy when I say it’s understandable, because if something happened to somebody on my team, they get in a fight, you’re going to protect them. And from that perspective you understand it, but you realize that what you can do has limitations.
And I realize that they’re scared. When you’re going out here every day, when you’re putting that uniform on, in certain neighborhoods you don’t know what’s going to happen. But that’s because there’s a distrust.
HB: The dynamic in sports, the NHL aside, is white owners, white media, white coaches, black players. That dynamic makes it difficult to be understood. How do you feel like your message has been received?
CA: I control my own message. I don’t go through the traditional outlets to get my message out there. I create what I want to and I put it out there on my own.
HB: Whatever gestures you decide to make this season in support of your message, as a team or individually, what do you expect the reaction to be?
CA: The NBA is very supportive. They want to team up with us and be behind it, but at the end of the day it’s still a corporation, so there’s only so far that they’re going to let you go. And one gesture’s not going to change anything. So regardless of if we stand out there and put our arms around each other to show unity and solidarity, on the flip side, at the moment somebody goes out there and puts their fist up, that’s going to be something different.
Colin Kaepernick sat down. That caused a different reaction. And people didn’t even know why he was doing it. They just thought it was disrespectful to the actual soldiers and people who fought for the country, and it had nothing to do with that.
HB: Have you spoken to Colin at all? What was your initial reaction when you saw it?
CA: I spoke to him that night. He reached out to me that night. And I’m watching and I’m like, “OK.” Like, “What’s next?” In a very respectful way, he was like, “I took this step and, you know, just wanted to get your thoughts on what’s happening.” And I said, “Well, you’re courageous.” I said, “You just showed a lot of courage in what you just did, but now is the hard part because you have to keep it going. So if that was just a one-time thing, then you’re f—–. But now you keep it going and be articulate and elaborate on why you’re doing it, and be educated and knowledgeable of why you’re doing it so when people ask, you can stand up for what you believe in and really let them hear why.”
HB: You’re talking about issues that most of America doesn’t really want to talk about, yet you also just played for your country and won a gold medal. How does being called unpatriotic affect you?
CA: I mean, you hear it. I just think that’s bull—- for somebody to call me unpatriotic. That’s totally bull—-. I’ve committed to this country on many different levels. Committing to USA Basketball since I was 19 years old, playing in four Olympics, going to the different parts of the world. Where they were warring, you know? Traveling to Turkey where they were bombing the building three doors down from us. Going to the games where they’ve got “Down with the USA” signs out there.
You’re representing something that’s bigger than yourself, bigger than the New York Knicks or any other team. You’re representing the whole country. You’ve got the USA on your chest, and when you hear that national anthem, regardless of how you feel about it, you get a sensation inside you. That’s why the emotions came out after the fact, because I knew what was going on back here in the country, in our own communities. And for me to know that and still be over there fighting and playing and representing our country on the highest scale that you can represent it in sports, it was all those kind of emotions.
HB: In the NBA, it seems like you have more power — more than NFL players, more than some baseball players. I always thought that standing up in 2014 during the Donald Sterling thing was a real opportunity for players to say —