Raptors’ Fred VanVleet, a star on and off the pitch with a social conscience

The impact for a professional athlete falls largely within his chosen field.

There have been exceptions over the years. John Carlos and Tommie Smith, Muhammed Ali, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson and Billie Jean King come to the fore in any conversation like this. Most recently, Colin Kaepernick joined this list.

But today, and certainly on the Toronto sports scene, Fred VanVleet evokes the memories of those aforementioned former athletes and how they used their platform to bring about change at the societal level.

VanVleet is a different breed of professional athlete in today’s world.

An elite, soon to be a star in the field, it’s a real debate whether he has had and will have more of an impact on the game and the Raptors team he leads or on society in general in the end. account.

Toronto hasn’t seen many athletes take an interest in social activism, certainly not with the passion VanVleet brings to it.

There is no half measure with VanVleet. When he’s in it, he’s all over the place. That goes for the current push to bring the Toronto Raptors back to their championship level of just two years ago and it goes in the direction of challenging the playing field in society at large, where it is stacked in favor. of the young white man over all others.

VanVleet knows exactly who he is and what he believes. He’s outspoken but always seems to find that perfect line to get his point across without making things too controversial to the point where his message gets lost in denials and rebuttals.

“I’m definitely more radical than most people would probably like me to be, but again, we still have to work with each other,” he said recently. “These conversations don’t have to be so confrontational, like I said, it doesn’t have to be a fight every time. It’s as easy as me to have a conversation and if it’s something you haven’t thought about before then you are thinking about it now and, again, just happy to be a part of something that is positive in the city and which is the most will significantly affect a young individual and that individual’s family. That’s really all that matters.

It was answered amid a series of questions about a recent scholarship program he partnered with Rotman Commerce on at the University of Toronto that will offer a scholarship as well as mentorship to support a black student. or native throughout her undergraduate degree at the prestigious school. .

A man of his word, VanVleet has spoken of doing something tangible as the NBA and the world in general grapple with such unspeakable acts as the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis by the police or the senseless shooting of Jacob Blake, also. by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“I think it’s just important,” VanVleet said of the stock market, “and it’s even more important to spotlight people who might not have the look, so overall, it was probably inspired over the last couple of years by all the social injustice that was going on around the world and some of these conversations started and we ended up with this scholarship. I was just happy that he was able to flourish like he did, so quickly.

VanVleet spoke of an even larger scholarship program closer to his hometown of Rockford, Illinois.

“This one is a bit bigger,” VanVleet said. “A little less funding in Rockford than in Toronto, so I’m working on that one. ”

The stock market is just a project set up by VanVleet to tackle the embedded inequalities in society that serve to maintain the status quo, where a young black man or a person of color does not enjoy the advantages inherent in his counterpart. White. This is not his first step back from the status quo and it will not be the last.

Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was an assistant when VanVleet entered the league and he’s marveled at him from almost day one. Undrafted, VanVleet has become the leader of this Raptors squad, both on and off the pitch. But Nurse probably kept his highest praise for what VanVleet has been able to do outside of the game with the platform and the financial freedom to play in the NBA has allowed him.

“I give her a lot of credit for it all, really,” Nurse said. “I think he (he brings) great leadership and a voice of reason and a frequent voice during the bubble and all that kind of willingness to be ready to step in there probably a lot more than anyone d ‘other. And I think there are a lot of combinations out there. He wanted. He had an opinion. He is intelligent. He is engaged. There are a lot of things that put Fred first. And it’s good to see that.

But it’s clearly VanVleet’s overall belief to do what he knows to be right and that Nurse admires the most.

“I absolutely love – absolutely love – what he did here, with this project,” Nurse said of the Rotman Fellowship. “I love reading the story about it. I like some of the deep stuff that he talks about when he goes to shoot commercials or advertise. He goes directly to the person: “Who’s running the show here?” And ask them “Where is the diversity here?” I think, for me, I think it’s real. It’s real.

“It’s not like him – a lot of people would shake their heads and walk away without saying anything. Or talk about it after they leave. Go up and say, “We’re not going to do this until that changes.” You want me ? It is very good. If you don’t want me because of this, then I’ll walk.

“For me it’s super real and it’s super efficient and I love it. I like him to take it straight like that. He keeps it real.

In short, that’s what makes VanVleet the success it is. Belief and confidence in your own convictions to do what you know is right.

And it goes way beyond the basketball court, as we’re all discovering.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2022

Comments are closed.