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Caris LeVert on fight for social justice: ‘I was born into it’

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The world has changed in the past four months and in talking with reporters on Friday afternoon, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Caris LeVert discussed matters outside of basketball, away from the Orlando bubble. No surprise, at the top of the list: fighting for social justice and the health not just of the players, but the U.S. as a country.

LeVert in particular, talked about how active he’s been in the fight for social justice, through the Black Lives Matter movement ... both on the street and in chats and conversations with Nets teammates and staff.

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“I was a part of maybe four or five marches or protests, whatever you want to call it. I don’t think it’s been the last four or five months,” LeVert said on a Zoom call with Nets media. “I feel like the last four or five months, it’s been documented and people are kind of paying attention to it, but that’s kind of been going on since before I was born. I was born into it. So, I don’t want to say it’s normal, but people like myself are kind of used to seeing crazy things like that happening.”

In a candid chat with reporters, LeVert explained how George Floyd’s story resonated with him self and his family because “that definitely could have been me out there, could have been one of my family members out there.”

He mentioned how he and his family members have all been victims of racist police, prejudices – instances where he’s been pulled over in the car for no reason whatsoever.

“I think that kind of put everything into perspective...

“I mean, it’s good to see more awareness being brought to it, but at the same time, I feel like real change needs to come. I feel like more conversations are being had. That’s the first step, and I think for change to happen, it needs to just keep happening. More conversations, more action needs to be taken.”

So, does he see any progress in the social justice movement?

“I think conversation and awareness education,” said LeVert. “I feel like some people weren’t really aware of what was going on and for how long it was going on. Just having conversations with different staff members on my team or just different, ex-teammates that I’ve had, teammates that I’ve had, just talking to them about my experiences and what I’ve gone through.

“It’s different to imagine that people didn’t know that that was going on. But I feel like education is the most important part right now and going forward people kind of know that we were behind the 8-ball a little bit. And going forward I feel like more action will definitely be put in place but I think conversation and education is the most important thing right now.”

LeVert has a brand-new look, rocking cornrows, a look he explained that was inspired by his favorite player growing up, Allen Iverson. While he’s excited for the opportunity to play in Orlando, LeVert explained how he’s did some thinking on whether or not he should back out of the “bubble.”

“I don’t really make those decisions as an organization, I feel like that’s outside of me. That’s Sean [Marks] and ownership. That’s not really my job to think of those things. Myself individually, that’s definitely a thought in my head... When thinking about personal health and things like that outside of coronavirus and social justice and comfortability down there in the bubble, that’s definitely something I have to consider. But as an organization, I don’t think that’s my call to say we’re not going down.”

Of course, four Nets players will not be in Orlando – Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Nicolas Claxton, all of whom are injured, and Wilson Chandler, who announced his decision to opt out. Spencer Dinwiddie was diagnosed with coronavirus a week ago and hasn’t decided whether he’ll play or not.

“Even if those group of players didn’t want to go, I feel like they’d still push guys out there to play,” LeVert explained.

Both players believe the NBA is doing the best it can.

“I think the NBA and all the teams have done a great job of limiting the risk and putting us in a safe environment; so I’m pretty confident going out there,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “I just hope that the least people as possible are going to get the virus; and if possible, nobody. I’m confident. Of course there’s risk, but I think they’ve done a great job.”

Over the past couple of weeks, LeVert touched on the team chats and conversations with the NBA Players Association about resuming play at the time of social upheaval and coronavirus. When Sean Marks and the Nets drafted LeVert, they appreciated his character and leadership. He’s showing just that in this fight, discussing how it’s crucial to listen and understand different perspectives in the locker room.

“Everybody is different. Everybody has their own opinions, their own viewpoint,” said LeVert. “I feel like, as brothers, it’s our job to support everyone’s ideas and things like that. Obviously, when everyone grows up kind of different and everyone has different viewpoints, there’s going to be people who don’t agree on certain things. That’s with any type of organization, any type of team, any type of family.

“So, at the end of the day, we still support each other’s decisions. Obviously, some people feel some way and other people feel another way. But at the end of the day, we’re still brothers and we still love each other.”

Then, there’s the issue of the overall health of the country as infections, hospitalizations and death jump.

Luwawu-Cabarrot, a native of France, was one of those who stayed in Brooklyn. He did not travel back home during the quarantine, explaining “It was not worth it.” But in talking to folks back home, TLC said one question kept cropping up.

“Yeah, they’ve been really questioning myself on what’s going, why is it still here, why you guys can’t do everything we do, especially how advanced you guys [United States] are and everything,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “So, I don’t know. I just tell them the truth, I tell them people sometimes are not being responsible and being outside without the masks and without the gloves, and not really paying attention to all these things.”

Cabarrot told reporters how he used his downtime during isolation by working out , cooking (He is French after all), learning Spanish, educating himself on American history and reading a book about self-motivation that Jacque Vaughn sent the team entitled, “Chop Wood Carry Water” – subtitled “How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great.”

As of right now, the Brooklyn Nets have 12 active players on the roster. Players can opt out at any time and it wouldn’t come as a surprise if more came forward and backed out. But as of now, LeVert and Cabarrot will be in the Orlando bubble come July 31.