Tobias Harris didn’t say many words during his availability Monday from Disney World, but he still spoke volumes.
The first question Harris was asked was regarding a report that Rockets guard Russell Westbrook was collaborating with the NBPA to make T-shirts with messages revolving around social justice and racial equality.
Instead of expanding on the question, Harris used his time with the media to amplify a different message.
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“Nothing against the T-shirts, but we want to make sure that [Kentucky attorney general] Daniel Cameron arrests the cops and officers involved with Breonna Taylor’s death,” Harris said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”
Before another reporter could be called on, Harris repeated the message.
“That’s going to be my answer for every question — for Daniel Cameron to step up and do what’s right. That’s the only message I’ve got today.”
Harris then politely thanked the media on the call and walked off.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was killed on March 13 by Louisville police. Of the three officers involved, Brett Hankison is the only one that has been fired. Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were placed on administrative reassignment. None of the officers have faced criminal charges.
Harris is one of many athletes that have tried to use their platform to bring attention to Taylor’s death. Former Sixer Jerami Grant did something similar to Harris, bringing up Taylor in response to all the media’s questions during his availability last week.
The recent deaths of Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and other Black people have led to protests around the country. Harris participated in multiple protests in Philadelphia, including one with teammate Matisse Thybulle and GM Elton Brand.
While the Sixers near a return to the court, they’re looking to make sure the fight for racial equality is not pushed to the background. Harris, who has emerged as one of the team’s leaders, is unsurprisingly leading that charge.
"We’re kind of leaning on Tobias right now,” Glenn Robinson III said Monday. “We’re going to come together as a team, kind of figure out where to go forward and what we’re going to do for the city of Philadelphia to come together with everything that’s going on right now.
"We want to decide as a team — why are we here, what are we playing for besides a championship? We’re also playing for our community and the things that are happening in the world. I think it’ll be pretty impactful, a pretty big statement. Hopefully it’s coming from Tobias soon.”
Head coach Brett Brown, who is part of a committee of 11 NBA coaches that are looking for ways to highlight these causes, shared a similar sentiment last Friday, saying that he wanted to make sure the team’s message is representative of the city of Philadelphia.
“I personally have connected with a group called POWER in Philadelphia with Pastor Mark Tyler,” Brown said, “and part of the initiative that we’re trying to do as a team here in Orlando is how do we take all the stuff that’s gone on and do something that’s specific to Philadelphia. … And in the meantime, my conversations with my team have been appropriate, real. I’ve said before, I don’t profess to walk in the large majority of my player’s shoes.
“I’m a 59-year-old white man. But I do know a good heart and I do know right from wrong. And trying to find my role as a leader, as the head coach of this team and figure out what’s that mean is most on my mind. ... Tobias and Pastor Mark Tyler communicated a lot yesterday and I want our players to drive this. And as an organization, we’ll support it, and as a coaching fraternity, it's coming very soon — a better path and plan will be announced with something that has been moving for two months.”
Harris has already contributed to the Philadelphia community in a big way since signing a near-max contract this past offseason.
In October, he donated $1 million for a “community draft” to assist nine under-served communities in Philadelphia. In December, he spent the day at Bethune Elementary School in North Philadelphia, where he donated supplies and treated the Black male teachers at the school to a night out at a Sixers game. He’s also made a variety of donations for COVID-19 relief.
Actions speak louder than words. Harris is using both.
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