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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

257 Nov 28 2020: Tolliver described Pope Francis as “super chill.”

Day 257: Nov 28, 2020

N.B.A. Players Meet With Pope Francis on Social Justice Efforts

Pope Francis invited a group of N.B.A. players and representatives of their union to the Vatican to discuss their social justice efforts.

A delegation of five N.B.A. players and officials from the players association met privately with Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss their efforts toward addressing social justice and economic inequality.

The visit came after the Vatican extended an invitation to the players’ union, saying the pope wanted to learn more about their activities. Michele Roberts, the executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, joined Kyle Korver, Sterling Brown, Anthony Tolliver, Marco Belinelli and Jonathan Isaac, players who are all active in the union, at the meeting.

(Kyle Korver)

“I thought it was a fraud email that I got,” Korver, who plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, said. “I called Michele right away. I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ She said, ‘Yes, it is and would you like to come in like two days?’ This came together really quick.”

After the 30-minute meeting, the players and officials still appeared stunned as they talked about it on video calls with reporters. “I’m still not even sure if this really happened,” Roberts said. The players took turns addressing the pope and offered him a book documenting many of their community and social initiatives in the last few months as well as jerseys and a Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

“He said sport is such an opportunity to unify, and he compared it to a team, where you have a common goal and you’re working together, but you all use your own personalities,” Korver said.

(Anthony Tolliver)

For the players, the meeting provided an opportunity to expand global awareness of the efforts to promote social justice after the deaths of several Black Americans at the hands of the police, including George Floyd in Minnesota, and the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin

Brown and Korver were members of the Bucks team that initiated a work stoppage throughout sports in August.

Confined inside the N.B.A.’s bubble environment near Orlando, Fla., Bucks players refused to take part in a scheduled playoff game after the shooting of Blake in Kenosha, Wis. Their protest quickly spread to other teams and other sports, forcing the postponement of games in the W.N.B.A., Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer.

Most N.B.A. players during the season wore league-authorized messages on the back of their jerseys, while the courts featured Black Lives Matter wording. The majority of players and coaches knelt during the national anthem before games.

Isaac, a member of the Orlando Magic and an ordained minister, elected to stand. “My heart is, I believe, that it’s in a place of love,” Isaac said of what he shared with the pope.

In June, Pope Francis said he had watched the social unrest enveloping the United States with “great concern.”

After 35 years of deeply conservative pontificates who focused on doctrine and social issues such as abortion, Pope Francis, a Jesuit, has sought since his election in 2013 to shift the emphasis of the church toward addressing issues of social justice, such as poverty, migration and equality.

In his October encyclical, titled “Brothers All,” a reflection on fraternity and social friendship, the pope wrote that “a readiness to discard others finds expression in vicious attitudes that we thought long past, such as racism, which retreats underground only to keep re-emerging. Instances of racism continue to shame us, for they show that our supposed social progress is not as real or definitive as we think.”

He added, “Racism is a virus that quickly mutates and, instead of disappearing, goes into hiding, and lurks in waiting.”

(Marco Belinelli)

Brown recently settled a civil rights lawsuit against the city of Milwaukee and its police department for $750,000, citing police brutality during a 2018 incident over a parking violation.

The agreement included an admission of a constitutional violation by the city and commitment to procedural changes by the police department.

(Sterling Brown)

Brown said he wished the meeting with Pope Francis had lasted longer. He spoke about the Bucks’ protest and Blake’s shooting more than his personal experience with police brutality.

“Nobody gets to do this from where I’m from, barely get to do it from the United States,” Brown said. “For me to be one of them, I can definitely take this and hold this and let people know I’m out here doing this to make a change, to actually get things put on other people’s minds that have influence, to a degree.”

Belinelli, a member of the San Antonio Spurs, was the only player able to speak in Italian to the pope.

More players had expressed interest in making the trip but could not because of the complications of travel in the pandemic and the holiday week. Free agency is also continuing. Training camps begin next week. “If we had more time, I would have 50 guys,” Roberts said.

Pictures of the meeting showed the group and Francis without masks; the pontiff, who sat at a distance, has been known to forgo them in indoor meetings. The players had masks on by the time they were taking video calls.

The players who attended described the decision to meet the pope as an easy one. “You say pope and being able to fly to Rome, this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so why not take it?” said Isaac, who paused his rehabilitation from a torn A.C.L. to take part, while Brown agreed to a free-agent deal with the Houston Rockets only a few hours before departing.

(Jonathan Isaac)

“This visit is the kind of thing that gives you, I believe, the sense of confirmation that the work that you’re doing is making a difference,” Roberts said. “The confirmation comes from someone whose life is spent giving of himself to others, saying what you’re doing is exactly what you should be doing and I encourage you to keep doing it.”

Pope Francis is a noted fan of San Lorenzo de Almagro, a top-division soccer club.

He discussed sports in terms of discipleship, Korver said, a way of modeling behavior and leading others. “It’s this beautiful opportunity that it provides, and he really encouraged us to just humbly walk into that,” he added.

Tolliver described Pope Francis as “super chill.”

“He was actually way more relaxed than I’d ever imagine a pope being,” he said, adding that he did some reading on Francis before the trip. He said the pope told the players about how he used to love watching the Harlem Globetrotters and even flashed a sense of humor.

“And you know, when the pope makes a halfway joke, it’s the funniest thing ever, right?” Tolliver said. “So when I say making jokes, anything that was supposed to be remotely funny, we made sure we gave him a good laugh.”


Old Men Playing Basketball


The heavy bodies lunge, the broken language

of fake and drive, glamorous jump shot

slowed to a stutter. Their gestures, in love

again with the pure geometry of curves,

rise toward the ball, falter, and fall away.

On the boards their hands and fingertips

tremble in tense little prayers of reach

and balance. Then, the grind of bone

and socket, the caught breath, the sigh,

the grunt of the body laboring to give

birth to itself. In their toiling and grand

sweeps, I wonder, do they still make love

to their wives, kissing the undersides

of their wrists, dancing the old soft-shoe

of desire? And on the long walk home

from the VFW, do they still sing

to the drunken moon? Stands full, clock

moving, the one in army fatigues

and houseshoes says to himself, pick and roll,

and the phrase sounds musical as ever,

radio crooning songs of love after the game,

the girl leaning back in the Chevy’s front seat

as her raven hair flames in the shuddering

light of the outdoor movie, and now he drives,

gliding toward the net. A glass wand

of autumn light breaks over the backboard.

Boys rise up in old men, wings begin to sprout

at their backs. The ball turns in the darkening air.


Sweet Georgia Brown - Louis Armstrong


U2-I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For [Live/Gospel]


ADVENT PRAYER SERVICE Women Witnesses for Racial Justice Mother Mary Lange Led by Sr. Mumbi Kigutha, CPPS

Please join us for our Women Witnesses for Racial Justice Advent Prayer Service on Sunday, November 29, 2020 at 7pm ET. Sr. Mumbi Kigutha, CPPS, will lead us in prayer as we honor the life of Mother Mary Lange and the lives of all black Catholic women who have led the Church on a long journey toward racial and reparative justice. We will hear the witness of Sr. Romina Sapinoso, SC, Sr. Melinda Pellerin, SSJ, Leslye Colvin, and others. Jim Carr will lead us in song. Mother Mary Lange, Pioneer Who Desegregated Religious Life and Education Nothing is known for certain about the very early years of Mother Mary Lange's life. But we do know that she appeared on the scene with the force of a small tornado. She knew what she wanted out of life and worked to make her dream a reality -- no easy task, especially in those days. She was a foreigner, a woman, a woman of color, a Catholic, and an educator. She set out to make a difference in Maryland, a slave state where the economy was built on the back of enslaved peoples, and all aspects of society kept those divisions in place. Slavery was so entrenched in Maryland that even sisters and priests in the Catholic Church had slaves. Yet, in the face of racism, Mother Lange founded the first school in the United States for black Catholic children and the first religious community for black Catholic women. Following her example and her call to make the Gospel a reality for all, we join together for this evening of prayer, witness, and reflection. Deborah Rose-Milavec & Russ Petrus Co-Directors FutureChurch


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