By Danny Priest
Almost a year since the tragic and brutal murder of George Floyd in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, social justice remains at the forefront of the nation.
On April 11, 2021, tragedy again struck in Minnesota. This time, it was the shooting of 20-year-old Daunte Wright. AP News reported the Wright was pulled over for having air fresheners hanging in his rearview mirror.
He was shot by Officer Kim Potter and it was reported that Potter meant to grab her taser, but instead grabbed her firearm and “accidentally” shot and killed Wright.
These sorts of incidents have been a recurring problem for far too long and America has spent the better part of the past year grappling with issues of racism, social justice and police reform.
Sports leagues and athletes have been active in using their resources and platforms to take an active role in cultivating change during these times. There have been a number of examples, but perhaps no league has been more active than the NBA.
Back in November, the league established a social justice coalition between the NBA and the NBA Players association to advance efforts towards equality and social justice. Additionally, players such as LeBron James, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell and many more have not been shy about discussing these topics with the media in the midst of their seasons and through the off season.
Progress is being made, but so much work remains to be done. In Springfield, the Basketball Hall of Fame was doing their part to help support the cause the league was fighting for.
The Hall has their own social justice committee and following the brutal and public murder of Floyd, they too were searching for ways they could help change the course of how Black people were being unjustly treated and killed in America.
Shortly after their meetings an idea for a podcast involving basketball and social justice came to life and the Hall did not need to look far for a pair of hosts.
Less than 2 miles from the Hall at Springfield College, the duo of Kris Rhim and Marty Dobrow had created the podcast Liberty, Justice and Ball back in 2019 to explore the intersection of basketball and social justice.
Rhim, a senior communications/sports journalism major and Student Trustee, along with Dobrow, a professor of communications and social justice expert, had already hosted a successful first season of their podcast and were getting ready to get underway with season two.
That’s when the partnership between the pair and the Hall of Fame came together and it was a natural fit from all sides.
“There was a lot of discussion about how the Hall of Fame could, or should, at least explore what we should be doing as an organization. A number of board members jumped on this committee to study that and the outcome of those numerous discussions and meetings was the endorsement of this podcast,” said Scott Zuffelato, the Hall’s Vice President of Philanthropy.
The driving idea behind the inception of the podcast was to allow Hall of Famers, many of whom are of an older age, to reckon with and reflect on their life experiences with social justice issues as they moved through their careers.
“One of the key elements was that we were going to build a platform through a podcast interviewing and utilizing our Hall of Famers both about when they were coming up, because there was a lot of strife for our older Hall of Famers and a lot of obstacles, and (we also wanted) their view point on today,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Hall.
Now, just two episodes in, the podcast is already on the right track. Episode one featured Grant Hill and episode two was with Bob Cousy and the star power guests will continue for the foreseeable future on the podcast.
The episodes are a chance to hear conversations that otherwise may never be heard publicly with the legends of the game. It’s not about the trophies, accolades or on-court actions, it’s the more meaningful social justice related topics off the court that the podcast digs into.
“Usually you go to a podcast to talk about basketball, like, ‘Who are your top five guys who you played against or played with,’ stuff like that is cool, but who is asking them about the Cosby show’s impact on their childhood and people calling their mothers Mrs. Huxtable?” Rhim said.
“It brings back cool memories for them. I think they enjoy hearing questions that they are not typically asked. People want to talk about this stuff outside the white lines,” he added.
“I think the timing, we’re ripe for this right now. It is the story of our times. It’s the issue of our times. I believe that while basketball is only a small piece of the larger equation, it’s an important piece,” Dobrow said of the impact Liberty, Justice and Ball can have.
“Basketball has been an arena where race has been a part of the equation for so long and has been unspoken about for much of that time. I think now is the time for it to be spoken about, thought about, dealt with, learned from, all those things,” Dobrow said.
Rhim and Dobrow could not be more different. As they said in their podcast trailer, they are student and professor, Black and white, 22-years old and 60-years old, but the same objective for this podcast is shared by them and everyone else at the Hall.
They want to unite young people towards achieving tangible social equality and better treatment for Black people and marginalized groups in America.
“I think the point of the whole thing is no matter what your age and what your background is, everybody has a concern for social justice — the wide range of what they (Kris and Marty) represent is we all kind of want to come to center. They do come from very different backgrounds, but they have the same passion and fulfill the same results in terms of sharing those messages for us,” Doleva said.
“The purpose of the podcast is educational, to educate young people about these Hall of Famers and the best way to get to people like us is through Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and that’s really how we’re pushing it,” Rhim said.
Liberty, Justice and Ball presented by the Basketball Hall of Fame is available on all podcast platforms for individuals to download and listen. New episodes will publish every other Wednesday at 12 p.m.
Follow @Libjusticeball on Twitter and @libertyjusticeandball on Instagram to stay up to date on all of the latest episodes and content. Episodes will also be posted on the Basketball Hall of Fame accounts @Hoophall on Twitter and @hoophall on Instagram.
Photo: Danny Priest