Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams is a thinker.
So his thoughts went multiple directions in addressing former police officer Derek Chauvin being found guilty of all counts Tuesday for the murder of George Floyd last May in Minneapolis.
“I’m just happy about the line that’s been drawn so that our country says no to that kind of behavior,” Williams said before Wednesday’s game at Philadelphia. “We have really good cops in our society and what we saw yesterday was one being called for not being a good cop, not protecting and serving people of our country the way that they need to be served.”
Williams wrote an open letter calling for change in America after Floyd’s death. Nearly a year later, Chauvin, a 45-year-old White male, was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
“You’re happy with the verdict, but you also understand somebody lost a family member, somebody lost a dad, somebody lost a community member in a senseless manner,” Williams continued. “So that part saddens us all.”
Chauvin was seen on video pinning George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, to the ground with his knee last Memorial Day for over nine minutes after police responded to a report that Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill.
“I just hope that we get to a day where we all feel like we feel protected and served by our police force,” Williams said.
Suns wing Cam Johnson said after Wednesday’s 116-113 win over the Sixers he was happy “justice was served,” but felt a way about “being on the edge of your seat for justice to be served” with the verdict.
“We knew as a country, we got to keep pushing towards that equality and we’ve got to keep pushing towards justice,” Johnson continued. “And that’s one smallish step, but I think it definitely brought an awareness to me that it’s not necessarily right we should be on the edge our seat for justice. Obviously we need to continue to move forward.”
Suns point guard Chris Paul called Tuesday “a tough day,” but used the word “accountability,” saying people want to see that on a consistent basis.
“I think the toughest part for us all is that there was still a life lost,” Paul said about Floyd after Wednesday’s game. “Everybody thinks (because) of the verdict everything is right in the world, but it’s not. It’s not. It’s still a lot of things going on that are unjust.”
This led to Paul sending prayers and wishes out to Ma’Khia Bryant and her family as the 16-year-old Black female died after being shot by police officer Nicholas Reardon in Columbus, Ohio.
The police body cam shows Bryant charging a woman with a knife Tuesday before she was shot by the officer who is White.
“You think you get through one thing and then another thing occurs,” Paul said.
While Williams is happy with the Chauvin verdict, he doesn’t want to lose sight of the good police officers who protect and serve.
“It’s so easy to go the route of thinking about all the situations we’ve seen and they hurt us all deeply, but I think it’s also a time to make sure we rally around the good policemen in our society that do their jobs every day, put their lives on the line,” Williams said. “They need to be respected and honored and we can’t let a few too many of these situations, unfortunately, scar what a lot of cops try to do well every single day.”
Williams said the team didn’t talk as a group about the verdict, but did have individual conversations with his players as he thought about what might happen had the verdict gone differently.
“We were all prepared for what could happen,” Williams said. “Unfortunately, I woke up thinking about that like, if this doesn’t go the way that it did yesterday, that our society could change pretty quickly, especially in big cities and in our jobs. We probably weren’t going to have games yesterday, maybe even (Wednesday), depending on what would’ve happened. I talked about that with a few guys.”
The potential of protests and riots, particularly in major cities like say Philadelphia where the Suns were Tuesday before Wednesday’s game against the 76ers, were highly possible had Chauvin been found innocent.
Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury released a statement after Tuesday’s verdict.
“As Americans, as athletes, as business and community leaders, as role models with a platform, and as every day citizens focused on just doing the right things, our work as shepherds of social and racial justice never ends nor does our commitment to being a force for change, fighting injustice while celebrating and embracing diversity,” the statement said.
“The Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury will continue to invest in communities of color, listen to leaders in the space of racial justice, and use our organizations’ voice and platform in the pursuit of an equal and peaceful society.”
While Williams appreciates the conversations and calls for social justice, he admitted the talk can feel as if people “are just talking about the same thing.”
Another reason why Tuesday’s verdict was so monumental.
It’s being viewed as a major step toward change in America.
“We all just want to see action, we all just want to see change and we all understand that we can play a part in that by being part of the solution in our local communities,” Williams said. “I think our guys understand that. They’ve done that in other areas, other buckets, of our society, especially in Phoenix, to help people who need help and hopefully they will continue to do that.”
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