At this point, there’s rarely a judicial decision that surprises Fred VanVleet.
Just hours after Kyle Rittenhouse, 18, was acquitted on all charges after fatally shooting two people and wounding a third during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin, last summer, the Toronto Raptors guard decided he had to speak up. It wasn’t something he wanted to do, he said, but VanVleet sat for a moment at the end of his Friday night press conference and voiced his displeasure with the verdict.
“I think this is what the system is designed for is to protect white people, young white people, especially young white men,” VanVleet said. “I’m not an expert of the judicial system other than to say that it’s not designed for anybody other than that. I think it’s a little outdated to say the lease.
“I think that we’ve gotta continue to use the tools that we have at our disposal. I think that things are changing and they will continue to change but we can’t lose sight, we can’t lose focus, we can’t lose hope.”
The Raptors as an organization have been at the forefront of the NBA’s fight for social change dating back to the killing of George Floyd in August 2020. While Raptors coach Nick Nurse said the team didn’t discuss the verdict very much on Friday, preferring to stay focused on the Sacramento Kings, he did say there would an open forum conversation on Saturday to allow everyone to discuss their feelings.
“I think that some of these verdicts and these decisions are directed and they’re meant to diminish the fight that people all over the country are fighting for,” VanVleet added. “I feel sorry for the victims, the families of the victims. But, yeah, sad, mad, all of the same feelings that we have every time we get one of these things. And we’ll look ahead to the next big media case which is in Georgia and hope that it’s not more of the same.
“But, again, we’ve gotta continue to do all the fighting that we can each and every day. We’ve gotta encourage people to keep educating themselves on issues and how we can change some of these people in these positions. If you followed that trial at all, it would’ve been nice to have somebody else in the judge’s seat, some other jurors.
“So, again, got a lot of work to do. I don’t know if it’ll be our lifetime or our kids’ lifetime or our grandkids’ lifetime, but we’ve gotta do our part each and every day.”
That is what VanVleet said he’s focused on. As a leader within the organization both on and off the court, he said he wants to encourage everyone to stay locked in on the fight for social change.
“There’s gonna be setbacks along the way,” he said. “This is one of them but we know how fucked up things are and we have to do our part to try to change that.”