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John Wall becomes latest NBA star to speak out on the events in Charlottesville

Washington Wizards all-star John Wall greets volunteers at his fourth annual back-to-school event Friday at the Rosedale Community Center & Library. (Candace Buckner/The Washington Post)

John Wall on Friday joined a growing chorus of NBA players who have expressed dismay stemming from the events last weekend in Charlottesville. While hosting a back-to-school event at the Rosedale Community Center in Northeast, Wall shared his thoughts on the state of the country in light of last weekend’s white supremacist demonstration that led to the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who was run over when James Alex Fields Jr. allegedly rammed his car through a group protesting the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and other groups.

Wall did not follow the path of Kevin Durant and LeBron James, outspoken superstars who delivered sharp criticism of President Trump after he cast blame on “both sides.” Without addressing the president directly, Wall shared his belief that violence in Charlottesville had sent the nation backward.

“It’s been difficult. It’s been tough,” Wall said, referring to the previous week. “We go through times where times are going in the right direction for us. Our country is going in a positive way. Then we turn back around and revert back to the stuff we try to tell our kids not to do or what our parents told us … they went through in the past, and we thought we got away from that.

“It’s kind of amazing to understand that in 2017 going into 2018, we’re still dealing with the same type of things that our great, great grandparents dealt with and we thought we were going in a positive direction,” Wall continued. “All we can do is not use it as retaliation and try to stay positive and understand that we want to give these kids a brighter [outlook] of what’s going on and not use it to go back at these people.”

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Durant, a D.C. native and star of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors, said he will refuse a White House invitation if one is extended to his team. Durant, who returned to his hometown of Seat Pleasant for a day in his honor, explained that his decision was based on disagreements with Trump, according to ESPN. Durant added that Trump has furthered splintered the country.

“I feel ever since he’s got into office, or since he ran for the presidency, our country has been so divided, and it’s not a coincidence,” Durant told ESPN. “When Obama was in office, things were looking up. We had so much hope in our communities where I come from because we had a black president, and that was a first.

“So to see that and to be where we are now, it just felt like we took a turn for the worse,” Durant said. “It all comes from who is in the administration. It comes from the top. Leadership trickles down to the rest of us. So, you know, if we have someone in office that doesn’t care about all people, then we won’t go anywhere as a country. In my opinion, until we get him out of here, we won’t see any progress.”

Earlier in the week, James also expressed his feelings about the current administration via Twitter, stating Trump has made hate “fashionable again.” James followed that Tuesday at an event for his foundation in Ohio by refusing to mention the president by name while calling for change.

“It’s not about the guy that’s the so-called president of the United States, or whatever the case,” James told the crowd. “It’s not about a teacher that you don’t feel like cares about what’s going on with you every day. It’s not about people that just don’t feel like wanting to give the best energy and effort to you. It’s about us.”

At the John Wall Family Foundation event Friday afternoon, Wall shared a similar unifying message.

“What everybody is saying is totally right. We thought we got past those type of things and every year there’s always something reverting right back to it,” Wall said. “So I think that’s something we’re going to have to deal with for the rest of our lives but I think as long as we educate our kids and educate our people … and not revert back to that, I think we’ll be totally fine.”

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Wall’s fourth annual event welcomed hundreds of children from first to eighth grades. Through his foundation, Wall donated backpacks with school supplies and will host a similar event Saturday in his home town of Raleigh, N.C.

“A lot of kids from where I’m from, don’t think we can make it from there. Just from me even being in the NBA shows them that you can strive to be anything you want in life,” said Wall, who also highlighted his sister as an example in her achievement of receiving a master’s degree and becoming a social worker.

“I just want these kids to understand, no matter where you start at, what you go through, you always can accomplish anything in life,” Wall said. “And it might not be a professional basketball player. It might be a doctor, it might be a nurse. It might be whatever you want to be. If that’s what you want to be, lock in and set your goal for it and work hard every day for it.”

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