Steph Curry Needs To Shoot His Shot

Steph Curry doesn't necessarily owe us any more than basketball. But what he refuses to talk about regarding North Carolina's HB2 speaks volumes all the same.
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Stephen Curry had as wide-open of a shot as he’ll ever see in the NBA, and did something he would never have done with a look that good in any other context. North Carolina had just passed what was then the most sweeping anti-LGBT law in the entire country, and Curry, who is from Charlotte, was asked about the law. All he had to do was knock down the shot by strongly condemning the law. He double-clutched, with uncharacteristic panic, and then he bricked it.

Let’s not defend Curry by saying he was really only asked about the NBA’s reaction—which, by the way, was much stronger than Curry’s—because doing so would be a disservice to Curry’s intelligence. He knew what he was being asked, and the awkward leaner he attempted as a sort of difference-splitting non-answer was not much of a response. Luckily for him, Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group got the rebound and passed it back out to Curry. Bolstering the unimpeachable image of the NBA’s best player is, in the end, a team effort.

“I knew I would be asked about my views on the situation in North Carolina and potential ramifications on next year’s All-Star Game in Charlotte, which I hope can be resolved,” Curry told Thompson. “While I don’t know enough about the North Carolina law to comment more fully, no one should be discriminated against.”

“My faith and beliefs have always been the bedrock of my life,” Curry said. “As a Christian, I am taught that we are all equal in the eyes of God. So I treat everyone the way I want to be treated—fairly, justly and equally. I hope that is how we all treat each other.”

He bricked it again.

Steph Curry is Steph Curry, which means he doesn’t really get to pass up shots like these anymore. His quotes and actions are shared across the world in the matter of milliseconds, because people want to know what basketball’s reigning godhead says about things. Thompson, in his article, argues that we should pay more attention to what Curry presents himself as than how he lives that image.

“How he lives is what truly matters. His modus operandi is of more value than his mere opinion.”

The problem is that there is no real difference between the two. As a role model, Curry’s words and actions are inextricable, one and the same. It’s true that how Curry lives his life matters, but how we understand this—how we see the reality of that life, or the fiction sold in its place—is through the media. We do not have a window into his life beyond that.

And we know how we see Curry off the court: with his daughter on his lap, with his wife and Michelle Obama, with his father playing HORSE. From this, we glean that he’s a decent man—a loving, affectionate father, husband, son, and person. But what about those actions teach us not to discriminate or to speak out against injustice against others, including and maybe especially those most readily bullied or ostracized? Shouldn’t a person’s words reflect their actions, and their actions reflect their words?

It’s worrying that Curry could not be moved to go beyond a milquetoast-y and qualified rebuke of the law and LGBT discrimination; it’s just as worrying that, as Robert Silverman of Vocativ reported, Curry’s longtime church in Charlotte is openly homophobic.

This is not to say that Curry is homophobic, or even that he shares all of his church’s views; he would know enough to keep it to himself even if he was, and anyway it's his business. But it does lead us into uncomfortable territory. Curry’s golden boy image is largely a product of the fact, and built upon the perception, that he’s a genuinely good person. No one wants to picture or paint him as a prejudiced person. But up to this moment, Curry has been unassailable, save for the curmudgeons of yesteryear who want him to get off their hardwood lawn. He has not been subjected to tough questions about who he is, beyond being the best living basketball player; he has artfully dodged any even approaching that realm. The soft answers he gave on North Carolina’s hateful law, both times, are troubling in large part because they are a reminder of how little we know about him.

The NBA prides itself on being an organization of inclusivity. It has been at the forefront of disciplining players for using homophobic slurs for years and celebrated when Jason Collins came out. It took a similarly strong stance against the North Carolina law, issuing a thinly-veiled threat to pull the 2017 All-Star game should the law not be repealed. They probably would have liked the face of their league to follow suit.

Words have power. They can heal or hurt, lift or hinder.  They can, to paraphrase Lord Byron, make thousands, even millions, think. Often, words are the most direct way for a role model like Curry to reach the thousands or millions of people they inspire. Thompson signs off his article with “unfortunately, in these times, it’s about what you say, not what you do,” which sounds like a world-weary kids-today lament, but is closer to nonsense. Bemoaning the attention Curry’s gained for his answers instead of addressing their careful elisions is itself a dodge.

Curry’s play alone didn’t make him into a role model—his words helped form that image just as much. There’s no reason for us to ignore those words now, simply because they make us uncomfortable or because they don’t conform with our perception of Curry as someone worthy of admiration.  If anything we must pay more attention to them. It’s about what you say and what you do, and Steph Curry does more, and means more, than basketball.

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