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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

Pistons coach shares stories of discrimination, message of inclusiveness

by Garrett Fodor

Despite needing to throw a few punches growing up black in Kentucky, one NBA basketball coach is encouraging youth to find another way and change how they approach life when faced with discrimination.

  Dwane Casey, a former University of Kentucky basketball standout and current Detroit Pistons Head Coach, said growing up, he was often the only African American in the gyms and was often targeted because of that.

  He shared his story at the Amherstburg Freedom Museum on Saturday as the “Freedom Achievers” campaign and mentorship program was launched. During the event, Casey spoke in front of a sold-out crowd of over 200 people as the keynote speaker. He described what it was like growing up in Kentucky with the discrimination he faced and overcame.

  Casey, 62, grew up in Kentucky playing basketball and baseball. He would receive his first coaching job at the age of 13, where he coached little league, with kids being three-years younger than him. Now, Casey is coaching the Detroit Pistons and won the 2018 NBA Coach of the Year, with the Toronto Raptors, and was an NBA champion in 2011 as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks. 

  “The first instinct you want to have is to fight, which is wrong. But that’s what I did. That was a mistake,” Casey said during his speech of being discriminated. “I wasn’t articulate enough to talk them out of how they felt, I wasn’t as informed as far as what their parents had taught them. So, the only thing I knew I had to do was fight. That’s what I tell my kids. And, unfortunately, today there are situations that you know you have games you have other situations where there is violence and that’s not the way to do that.”  

  Casey said that he believes sports is what really began to open doors and change how he and others were viewed, knocking down several barriers. 

  “My blood is the same, it bleeds red, just like anyone else,” Casey said. “We’re not where we used to be as far as diversity, and we’re definitely not where we should be, but we’re making steps. There [are] still issues. So, let’s be inclusive, a more inclusive society in everything we do and say.” 

The “Freedom Achievers Program” is being put on in partnership with the Amherstburg Community Foundation. The campaign is designed to connect successful achievers and mentees in hopes that youth can be inspired, to provide insight on potential career paths, and to create a network with high-profile speakers and professionals.

  The Amherstburg Freedom Museum hopes to continue this program, with keynote speakers coming every quarter. Monty Logan, President of the Amherstburg Freedom Museum said the next event will be in March of 2020.  He added they hope to continue to grow their list of mentors and mentees. Anyone interested is invited to call 519-736-5433. 

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