Culture

PYSO, ep. 55: Reggie Miller on athletic greatness, racism, and the importance of uncomfortable conversations

On this episode of Put Your Socks On, the Hall of Famer encourages us all, especially white people, to 'put your ears on' and listen to hard conversations.  

Basketball Hall of Famer, Olympic gold medalist, and all-around legendary player Reggie Miller is now a huge cyclist. He joins Bobby Julich and Gus Morton to talk about the impact of sports on culture, and the impact of culture on sports, in both broad terms and in this specific moment in time.

Miller talks about the positive role sports can play in society, and how the coronavirus has put that on hold in many ways.

“I think sports in general and especially the NBA has always had a huge platform in terms of healing. But I think a lot of people are frustrated right now because COVID and the coronavirus has stopped everything. So there’s no outlet for people,” Miller says. “Sports used to be the great equalizer in healing form. You know, after 9/11 it was baseball. You remember George Bush going to Yankee Stadium and throwing out the first ball, you know, ‘We won’t be defeated.'”

Miller, Julich, and Morton talk about the similarities between Michael Jordan and Lance Armstrong, and about how Miller first got into cycling. They talk about Miller’s first bikes (a Giant, then a custom Moots, then a Santa Cruz), and Miller’s charitable work.

Miller also talks about the importance of having uncomfortable conversations.

“When you see a murder on TV of George Floyd, and this has been going on forever, and people are frustrated, they’re tired, they’re hurt,” he says. “And you keep telling people to turn the other cheek and do have peaceful protests, and change never comes about. They are tired. So what? You know, we saw Colin Kaepernick taking a knee a peaceful protest to what has been going on, and he gets blackballed from the NFL format. And I see all these images now of police and other people kneeling. It’s funny how things have come full circle because the murder of George Floyd and this officer kneeling on him forcibly for over eight minutes, lynching this man on national TV for the world to see and you got Colin Kaepernick has been telling you guys this has been going on forever.”

“Sports and its brightest stars can help heal the pain hopefully, but it starts from within. People need to start listening and when I say people, white people need to start listening to the pain of black and brown people in this country and in the world because it’s been going on way too long,” Miller says. “A young man goes out for a jog — for a jog! — and gets murdered for that, you know, we got to stop. Sometimes you’ve got to take an aggressive approach to create change, they want change, and it starts with people getting out there and getting to the polls and voting. You don’t like a prosecutor? You don’t like a president? You don’t like an attorney general? You don’t like a judge, vote them out. Go vote, people, get them out.”

Miller says people people don’t want to have these conversations because they don’t want to believe that racism in 2020 exist. “This goes back 400 years. I mean, I don’t want to go in a history lesson here because this is a basketball and cycling show. But as long as people are willing to have a conversation and admit that racism is alive and well in America in what can we do black and brown people and white people, how can we help one another, get past this, if they’re willing to have that conversation, that’s the only way the healing is going to start,” Miller says. “But if you’re going to sit in your nice house, and turn the channel, we’re not going to go anywhere, no change will ever evolve from that. So if you’re willing to listen, and open up and say, ‘You know what, you’re right.’ God gave us two ears, and one mouth. Listen, put your listening ears on.”

And with that, give this episode of Put Your Socks On a listen.