'It's bigger than basketball': Pistons coach Dwane Casey, players join Detroit protesters

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — Pistons coach Dwane Casey was on a video call with his players this week when the subject turned to social justice in the midst of the protests around the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

That conversation turned into action on Thursday, as the Pistons joined a peaceful protest and march in downtown Detroit.

Detroit Pistons head coach Dwane Casey attends a demonstration to protest the death of George Floyd next to the Detroit Police Safety Headquarters in Detroit, June 4, 2020.

“We had a Zoom meeting the other night and guys were talking about what we could do to have a voice and be part of the community because our team is here,” Casey said. “I talked to players this morning and I said this is something where we can be part of the community and have a presence.”

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Casey made a few other calls and got more than 20 players and staff members, including Luke Kennard, Svi Mykhailiuk and Brandon Knight. Casey and assistant coach Micah Nori brought their families to participate and be part of the protest, which had a few hundred in attendance.

There were several speeches by the protest organizers outside Detroit Police Public Safety Headquarters and the group marched from Michigan Ave. to Woodward.

Casey said beyond the protests, the next steps were to focus on impacting change and making a difference in laws, police policies and procedures. The process will take many voices and more people have to join in and support the cause.

“It starts with policy and it starts with our owners and players and a guy like (San Antonio Spurs coach) Gregg Popovich and (Golden State Warriors coach) Steve Kerr speaking out,” Casey said. “If I say it, I’m just an angry Black man. We’ve got to get the majority to buy in and fight and help change policy.”

With protests happening in many cities across the country, the deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery in recent months have sparked the conversation and protests, but it’s time for change too, Casey said.

“Hopefully, these tough times and the murders that have unfortunately happened these last few months will be a lightning rod for change,” Casey said. “Whatever platform I have as a coach and players coming out here for the march can get the attention and keep the conversation going — for me, that’s most important, because it’s bigger than basketball.

“There’s always a risk, but there’s a risk for staying with status quo — with people being murdered for being Black.”

Casey said he has talked with Detroit Police chief James Craig about partnering on some programs and helping to create a dialogue.

“Whatever we can do to support and to fight this injustice,” Casey said. “I talked with Chief Craig and his heart is in the right place; he wants to do the right thing.”


Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

Detroit Pistons Luke Kennard, left, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk march on Michigan Avenue in Detroit with demonstrators to protest the death of George Floyd June 4, 2020.