Law enforcement officer reaches out to WSU hoops program

Pete Caster/TribuneWashington State men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith (left) released a statement Wednesday on Twitter saying a local law enforcement officer recently reached out to the program in hopes of starting a dialogue with the players.

Amid mass protesting and national tension, Washington State men’s basketball coach Kyle Smith broke some news that could be constructive and unifying.

The second-year Cougars coach posted a message Wednesday on Twitter, announcing a local law enforcement officer has “reached out and wants to start a dialogue with our players and staff to find ways to improve relationships.

“Although it may not seem like much in lieu of the aftermath across the nation, maybe this will start a process that can improve relationships in our small part of the world,” Smith said. “Reaching out is always the first step.”

Civil unrest in relation to police mistreatment of black people was spurred recently after the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, who was pinned to the ground by a police officer’s knee for a prolonged amount of time while pleading he could not breathe. Floyd died shortly after becoming unconscious. The officer, ­Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder. Prosecutors on Wednesday expanded their case against the officers who were at the scene of Floyd’s death, charging three of the officers with aiding and abetting a murder and upgrading the charges against the officer who pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck.

The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and the Idaho High School Activities Association also released statements later in the day saying it condemns any and all racism.

Smith sent out his best wishes to “everyone who has been affected by these tragedies, especially the communities that have been impacted the most.” He also relayed that some players in his program — and their family members — have been through similarly disturbing experiences. Just last week, sophomore guard Noah Williams shared his story from 2018, in which he was wrongly held at gunpoint by a King County Sheriff deputy who’d thought Williams was driving a stolen vehicle — it was his mother’s.

“It is soul crushing to hear and watch,” Smith said. “I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience. I love our team and staff, and I want them and their families to know that I am here to support them through this time. Hopefully, we can find a way to grow from this.

“... Although our hearts are broken, we will do our best to find a way to heal and help others.”

The WIAA said it would continue to find ways to make inroads toward equality for all people.

“The WIAA unequivocally condemns racism, hate and all actions motivated by social injustice,” the statement said. “We are sickened by the senseless killing of George Floyd and outraged at the mocking of his death by a coach in our state. To be clear, the WIAA does not hire or supervise coaches at individual schools. We do, however, recognize the critical role that coaches play in the lives of our future leaders, and we are committed to working with our member schools to create a fair, safe, and equitable environment for our student participants and everyone else who supports our school programs. ...

“This can only happen by acknowledging the systemic racism that continues to result in acts of violence and injustice around our country, and by working diligently to remove the barriers that students and families of color face here in our state. For change to occur in this country, it will require both reflection and action from every person, business and organization moving forward. We will be part of that change.

“Very few events have the ability to build community like education-based athletics and activities. The WIAA’s mission is to provide opportunities for all students to become active participants in their schools and communities. When we return to play, the WIAA will continue offering opportunities for all our students to make their dreams reality and our communities places in which we all feel welcome and safe.”

The IHSAA said in a statement on Twitter it strives to continue its promotion of diversity among those it serves.

“The IHSAA has a responsibility to remind out constituents that what we learn in education-based school programs; compassion, sportsmanship, fairness, hard work, perseverance, love, and teamwork will make a difference in our student, our communities and our world. It is every person’s responsibility.”

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