Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan referenced being “great” in a statement earlier this month after the nation began protesting the death of George Floyd. He asked how America, long called the greatest country in the world, could be called great with rampant oppression, pain, suffering, hatred, violence and racism.
"America can and should live up to the standard of Great,” McMillan said on June 2. “We all can and should be proud to call ourselves Americans. A great America is not something people of color have ever known, and it’s time to change that.”
In an interview with J. Michael of the Indianapolis Star, McMillan opened up further on the word “great” and what it’s commonly referenced as now in the political sphere.
Donald Trump has emblazoned “Make America Great Again” on red hats and made it a rallying cry for his base, 40 years after Ronald Reagan first used it as “Let's Make America Great Again” in his 1980 presidential election campaign. His 2020 campaign slogan is “Keep America Great.”
It’s that “trigger word” of “again” that has McMillan, 55, concerned.
McMillan: ‘Again’ a trigger word in slogan
McMillan told the Star he viewed the slogan as insulting, especially after Barack Obama served for eight years as the country’s first Black president. And he blamed Trump for creating a culture of division, anger and distrust.
“To me, it was a trigger word. Make America great ... again? What part are you talking about trying to bring America back to? When was it great? The ‘again’ part was pretty much what he has done, which is pit white against Black," McMillan said. "He has fueled this thing, the way he has led. Why not just make America great? It’s never been great for us. I want to know what period of time he's talking about.”
Pacers get involved in racial justice movement
McMillan took part in a voter registration rally and “Monumental March” on June 14 in Indianapolis and has watched his players take the lead in marches and more. Point guard Malcolm Brogdon joined a peaceful protest in Atlanta earlier this month, penning an op-ed on why he did it and what comes next.
He believes, per the Star, that his team will have more conversations about race as they convene at Disney World and about inequality and struggle around the world. They’ll learn about incidents not typically taught in school. And overall, he hopes it will help shape a new America.
Via the Star:
“As Black people, we’ve always referred to ‘the system.’ The system is keeping us down. We really never explained what this system was but we knew there was a system in place that would prevent us from getting a fair shake," McMillan said. “People are fed up with what is going on. We’re trying to create a new America. What we’ve been experiencing on both sides, both white and Black, is old America. We want a new America.”
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