Calling defenders of President Trump’s comments in the wake of violence in Charlottesville “stupid” or “sick,” Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale urged the city of Memphis to remove Confederate statues and criticized the rise of white supremacists, saying, “I can’t sit and watch this, not in a city where Dr. King was assassinated.”
Fizdale, who has spoken often about civil rights and how he was profiled by police while growing up in South Central Los Angeles, made the comments in an interview with Wendi Thomas of the MLK50: Justice Through Journalism project. Fizdale said that it was “disgusting” to equate the two sides who clashed in Charlottesville, as the president did Tuesday when he blamed “both sides” and said some counterprotesters had been “very, very violent.”
“You know, hopefully in the process, even these people that are diseased and sick in the mind, maybe we’ll pull a couple of them back and help them change the way they feel and live their lives,” Fizdale said (via the Commercial Appeal). “In the process of showing people that killing people in the streets and hating everybody and blaming everybody because your financial situation is screwed up makes no sense. And hopefully, we can save some people out of that horrible ideology.”
“It’s disgusting [to equate the Nazi marchers with Black Lives Matter protesters]. What are you talking about here? How can you even say that? You watch those people march up the street with their little — they’re so ridiculous looking with their tiki torches; they’ve actually got tiki torches; that says enough — but you see them marching up the street and what’s coming out of their mouths, and you tell me that they’re just there quietly protesting? And you’re telling me that there were some good people in that crowd?
“You can’t say that. If you’re standing next to these people with a torch, and whether your mouth is closed or open, if they’re saying that, on the way to that march, and they’re saying that, you get out of that line. You get as far away from that line as possible. So the fact that they were in unison, marching, saying all of these things, you can’t tell me there’s a good person in there. And for [the president] to put those protesters that were there to stop them in the same boat as those awful, evil people that are there to just wreak havoc on that beautiful city, I’ve been to that city; Charlottesville is an awesome city.
“If you put a Muslim in that car, what are you calling that person, right? You’re a terrorist. For this to happen and for our president to put that on the same level as people trying to fight hate and bigotry, peacefully, and standing up for their country and their city and saying this is not acceptable here, when our country went to war, and millions of people died from that war, and now you’re letting it happen on our streets? You can’t put that on the same level. For anyone who can sit there and defend his comments? You’re either stupid, honestly, you’re either just stupid or you’re sick. That’s how I’m looking at it. Sick, I mean you’re totally delusional in the mind. You’re totally like, there is something going on internally with you that’s not right. Because there’s no way you can listen to those comments, agree with what he said, and do it with a common sense logic. I’m sorry, there’s just no way I can see you saying that.”
Fizdale holds Trump accountable for some of what he sees happening in the country.
“Fifty years later [the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] is speaking to us from the grave and telling us to stand up to this crap that we’re seeing, that’s festering in our country, that our president has seemed to deem okay and label as equal as people who are fighting for love and fighting hate and bigotry and all of those things. We’ve got to listen to Dr. King. There’s no way, with me being the head coach in the city of Memphis, that I will sit on the sidelines and disgrace his legacy, my grandfather’s legacy [as a World War II veteran], and let somebody destroy something that we built in America that I think can be exemplary.”
Fizdale called for the removal of statues of Jefferson Davis and Nathan Bedford Forrest, two of many Confederacy commemorations in the South and elsewhere. In a study it conducted after the Charleston, S.C., church murders by Dylann Roof, the Southern Poverty Law Center found that there were just more than 1,500 place names and symbols in public places. Although most are in the South, they dot the nation and include: 718 monuments and statues, 109 public schools, 80 counties and cities, 10 U.S. military bases named for Confederates and nine official Confederate holidays in six states. Even the great-great-grandsons of Stonewall Jackson agree with Fizdale. In a letter published by Slate, the men, who live in Richmond, call the statues in their home town “overt symbols of racism and white supremacy, and the time is long overdue for them to depart from public display.” On Thursday, however, Trump mourned “the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments” in the wake of the weekend’s violence.
“Take ‘em down. I don’t know what the hesitation is. I don’t know what we’re waiting on,” Fizdale said. “Whatever gets those things down immediately, we got to do it. It splits people apart. It creates a public safety hazard having that thing in our city. The fact that Dr. King was killed here 50 years ago, and that the Civil Rights Museum sits here in our city, and for that to be out in the open, hanging out, where kids go, where families go, I don’t want that in our city anymore.
“For that to sit out there in the wide open in our city, I think, is a disgrace. And to our public officials, I’m challenging you to not put a bunch of red tape in front of us. Don’t create all these silly loopholes and this and that. Take it down; get it out of our city; get it out of sight; and let our city moving forward and into the future and be an example to the rest of the country.”