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Grizzlies Coach David Fizdale On His Activism: "I Want People To Be Uncomfortable"

Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty

Grizzlies coach David Fizdale spoke with TNT’s David Aldridge this weekend, and he got into the history of Memphis, the need for solidarity, and why he won’t stop fighting for justice.

The whole interview is a tremendous read about an NBA coach unafraid to speak about racism. As Fizdale shows in his interview with Aldridge, he’s not one to sit on his hands when he sees injustice:

“My agenda is simple — I want those things out of our city, out of public view,” Fizdale said by phone Saturday.

“I’m not even saying tear them up and melt them down,” he said. “Put them in their proper context in history. Their proper context is in a civil rights museum, where you could put them in context and talk about how awful they were. I just feel our citizens should not have to see that involuntarily.”


There’s a growing movement in Memphis—as there is across the country—to tear down monuments to Confederate soldiers, and the Greater Memphis Chamber of Commerce and Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland have voiced their support of the plan. The Tennessee Heritage Protection Act states that no monument or statue “dedicated in honor of a military conflict” can be removed, which is a bit of historical dishonesty that elides the fact that most statues, including the specific ones Fizdale mentions, were built decades after the Civil War as monuments to white supremacy in the face of rising black equity. Fizdale noted the slanted bit of historiography that allows the statues to stand.

“When it’s left up to the state and the state puts it in the hands of a committee who thinks they’re preserving history without the thought of humanity, just thinking about their common man and what they’ve experienced … are there statues of Hitler all throughout Germany?,” Fizdale asked. “No. You’re not going to do that to your citizens. We’ve got a huge medical community through here that we’re really proud of that’s world renowned, like St. Jude’s (Children’s Research Hospital). There’s big time stuff here where these statues sit. It’s just an awful look for our city. You add to that that Dr. King was assassinated here, and I feel like (the statues are) honoring people, whether they did it personally or not, the people that killed him.”


He also rightly noted that the fight will be bogged down unless white people and moderates join in.

And Fizdale singled out Memphis’ white population to stand up and join his campaign.

“Because until this becomes absolutely unacceptable to you, it’ll continue,” Fizdale told Thomas. “And so we need everybody to get involved right now. I know my wife and I, we’ll definitely be right there in the trenches, on the front line, spreading peace and love and trying to build real communities with people from all walks of life that are facing the exact same problems.”


Fizdale, whose grandfather fought in World War II, says he has the support of the team. If they’re uncomfortable, well, that’s the point.

“I think they support me for the most part,” he said. “Obviously, it’s edgy. It makes people uncomfortable. But that’s good. I want people to be uncomfortable. Our owner (Robert Pera), the owner of FedEx, our white owners of all the companies in the city, they’re the ones who have to step up and clean this out of our city. Money talks. What says more than people stepping up and saying ‘we’re not going to have this in our city?’ People have stepped up and bought tickets and supported them. I’m asking them to support us.”



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