Sitting on a sidewalk at the memorial to George Floyd at 38th Street and Chicago Ave., Timberwolves guard Josh Okogie and assistant strength and conditioning coach Kurt Joseph both said they didn’t want to watch the full video of Floyd’s death that took place steps from where they sat.
There was too much pain, too much trauma for them as Black men tied up in what happened and what they knew was in that video. But eventually both watched it.
“I didn’t want to let all my emotions out at that point in time,” Okogie said.
“We don’t necessarily know how traumatic it is to hold that trauma to ourselves …” Joseph said. “It took me a very, very long time to stomach the video. To actually watch this person’s [officer Derek Chauvin] knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while innocent bystanders were pleading with him.”
The Timberwolves recorded Okogie and Joseph’s conversation and released it Thursday on YouTube as the first episode of their new series called “Voices,” which the Wolves and Lynx say will feature conversations from personnel on both teams about social justice issues. (Frame grab above from the video).
Okogie and Joseph also discussed their experience attending rallies in the aftermath of Floyd’s death -- a conversation that has new urgency after Jacob Blake was shot by police seven times Sunday in Kenosha, Wis., setting off another wave of protests that has including the postponement of NBA playoff games.
“I sit here hopeful and I do believe that from what I saw in those marches, I saw so many white people marching with us,” Joseph said.
Added Okogie: “I smiled. I feel like Black people, we’ve been fighting this battle so long by ourselves. But to see the amount of people fighting for us, I was happy.”
They also shared their mutual hope in seeing young people motivated to use their voices in an attempt to bring change. Okogie said he noticed how children, using the social media app TikTok, were engaging their parents in conversations about race.
“Just to see that, the next generation, my generation or the one after me is going to be so pivotal,” Okogie said.
Joseph then outlined things society needs to implement that could bring about tangible change.
“Some people will argue abolish certain parts of the [Minneapolis Police Department]. Some people will argue to accommodate, make it better,” Joseph said. “Regardless of what action you take, it has to be a concerted effort. It has to be a sustained effort. It has to be something where we understand and know our own police.”
Joseph added a main engineer to bring about this change was to vote, and not just on the federal level or for president. But vote for local and state officials who are legislating laws at those levels of government.
“These people govern laws locally. You have to vote,” Joseph said. “You say that and it’s not as sexy as going to a basketball game. But if you think about what it can actually do for your children’s children. That’s one of the dopest things you could actually do.”