Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr wore a shirt with a message — “vote for our lives” — to a news conference before Game 2 of the NBA Finals on Sunday, a decision he said was because of Friday’s mass shooting in Virginia Beach and an ongoing crisis of gun violence.
Speaking in Toronto, where his team was set to face the Raptors, Kerr noted “how devastated so many families are and so many people are.”
“The shirt is a reminder that the only way we can get out of this mess is to actually vote, and to vote for people who are going to be willing to create some change in our gun laws in our country,” he said.
Twelve people were killed in Virginia Beach on Friday by a gunman who was a municipal employee who had resigned earlier in the day. The gunman, identified as 40-year-old DeWayne Craddock, died in a gun battle with police.
Kerr, one of the most politically outspoken figures in sports, has used his platform to bring attention to what he sees as a need for stronger gun control laws. His efforts have included inviting students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High — site of the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla. — to a Golden State practice. The shirt he wore Sunday derived from a gun control campaign launched by some Stoneman Douglas students in the wake of the 2018 tragedy.
“The young generation, the ‘March for Our Lives’ generation, has really inspired me,” said Kerr, a former NBA player seeking his fourth championship in the past five years with Golden State. “So I offer my support to them and to all young people, and hope that we can create a change where we don’t all have to walk around scared that we’re going to get shot in our country.”
For Kerr, the issue is personal. When he was 18 and a freshman at the University of Arizona, his father was assassinated by gunmen in Beirut in 1984. He cited his trauma last year during a town hall convened by Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) at a California high school.
“I know how the Parkland families feel, or the Aurora families, or Sandy Hook,” Kerr said at the time, referring to other mass shootings in recent years. “I met with some of the families from the Las Vegas shooting. … It’s awful. It’s devastating. It’s horrible. This is pretty simple: Let’s see if we can do something about it. Let’s save some lives.”
Before a Warriors game in 2017, Kerr used his pregame news conference to describe gun-related deaths in the U.S. as “a public health issue” that had “nothing to do with partisanship, political parties.” As an example of what he’d like to see happen, he pointed to safety measures enacted over several decades that he said have dramatically reduced rates of fatalities in car accidents.
“When 90 percent of our country wants background checks on gun purchases, and we’ve got our Senate and our House not only voting it down but using the Bill of Rights as a reason for people to have rights to carry these automatic weapons,” Kerr said on a podcast in 2016, “and we’re getting people murdered every day at an alarming rate, I just have to get this off my chest — our government is insane. We are insane.”
In October, when a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, Kerr said he had been conditioned to expect periodic shootings.
“That’s where we’ve gotten as a country. We’re broken right now,” he said then. “So, nothing surprises us anymore. Nothing surprises me anymore.”
Kerr’s latest statements come about a month after another NBA coach, the Denver Nuggets’ Michael Malone, made emotional comments about gun violence before a home playoff game against the Portland Trail Blazers, after a Denver-area school shooting. Malone, the father of two daughters who attended a different school, said he lived not far from where the shooting occurred.
“This is an epidemic,” Malone told reporters. “And it continues to happen. And that is the frustrating thing. … I’m not a politician, I don’t have the answers, but something must change.”
Kerr has also been a vocal critic of President Trump, as have some of his Warriors players, who were uninvited in 2017 from making the traditional champions’ visit to the White House. After winning the NBA title again in 2018, Golden State players used a road trip to Washington in January to meet instead with former president Barack Obama.