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How international efforts in facing past wrongs help NBA fight racism

How international efforts in facing past wrongs help NBA fight racism

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The city of Brunswick in Germany, Braunschweig as the locals call it, harkens to a medieval past as well as a modern future. It is a city that helped aid the rise of Adolf Hitler, and one that was nearly destroyed by the time World War II ended.

Today, Braunschweig is a modern, diverse city that attracts young people. It's where Oklahoma City Thunder guard Dennis Schroder grew up.

His childhood there wasn't perfect. As a Black kid growing up in the predominantly white nation, whose father grew up in Germany and mother emigrated from Gambia, he experienced racism. When he moved to the United States, he wasn't surprised to see racism here. But it felt different.

"It was kind of like a culture shock," Schroder said.

He wasn't accustomed to the care that Black men had to take around police officers, or even walking down the street. The concept of gun violence was foreign to him, as was the idea that he was safe because he played in the NBA, but others with his skin color weren't.

When he thinks about his future and that of his young children, Schroder would rather they grew up in Braunschweig.

"It's just safe, I know everybody," Schroder said. "I can say nothing is gonna happen to me there. I don't have to worry about anything."

In Schroder's personal history, several concepts about American race relations meld together. Braunschweig, like other parts of Germany, has confronted its ugly past - Schroder started learning about it as a preteen.

Scholars, activists and politicians lately have considered the differences in the ways that Germany confronted its actions during the Holocaust with the way America confronted its past of slavery, the Jim Crow era and racist policies that followed. Many people see the difference as obvious: America doesn't honestly talk enough about its past.

"You go to Germany and there's markers everywhere where Holocaust victims were," former Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "They've come to grips with what they did. They've paid reparations in Germany. They still are. We've yet to come to grips."

For the last several months the NBA has tried to be part of a move toward change. With the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes, came nationwide protests and reckonings. Before the season resumed in the bubble, the NBA considered how it could help steer the conversation.

In the bubble on the Disney World campus near Orlando, Fla., players and coaches speak about examples of racism, sometimes from their own experiences.

"The more talented and affluent and elite you are, the more tempting it is to simply do the comfortable and convenient," said Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a nonprofit organization committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States. "Which is why I am impressed by what the league has done and what the players and coaches have done.

"They know that some fans are not going to be happy, may never forgive them for speaking about these issues, and they've done it anyway."

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