Dwight Howard grew up in College Park in the Atlanta area, with a father who is a state trooper and an uncle who is now the District Attorney for Fulton County, which covers most of the city.
So when a nationally prominent story about two police officers being held responsible for the killing of Rayshard Brooks in the drive-through of a Wendy’s in the city, Howard made sure he was on the scene as the charges were announced.
Standing in a white T-shirt with the words, “Breathe Again,” superimposed over the word “Breathe” repeated and arranged in the shape of a pair of lungs, Howard watched Paul Howard Jr. tick off 11 charges against fired officer Garrett Rolfe, including felony murder, and two charges against his partner that night, Devin Brosnan.
Howard did not speak during the press conference but he has been creating a stir away from the court in recent days with his support for a coalition of players led by Kyrie Irving demanding, among other things, changes to the league’s approach to social justice causes as a condition of returning to the floor to finish the 2019-20 season under the NBA’s plan to have 22 teams compete at the Disney World complex starting in late July.
Dwight Howard has Been in Georgia for Months
Howard has been in Georgia since the NBA suspended its season because of the spread of the novel coronavirus in March. Since then, the state has been an epicenter of racial strife, with outrage over the killing of 25-year-old black jogger Ahmaud Arbery in the Southeast part of the state in February. Video that was later released showed Arbery being chased by two white men with guns, who were later charged in his death.
Brooks was shot and killed this week while fleeing from a confrontation with Rolfe and Brosnan, who are both white.
Brooks’ death has added to a swirl of controversy around Atlanta police and the community. Last Saturday, police chief Erika Shields resigned. Paul Howard Jr. has charged eight officers in the past two weeks and, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “APD colleagues responded (to the Rolfe charges) by staying home from work Wednesday night, a reaction to two weeks of turmoil that has sunk morale ‘tenfold,’ Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said on CNN.”
Dwight Howard Wants to Keep Up Social Justice Fight
That has been the backdrop for Dwight Howard’s time at home during the coronavirus shutdown and one reason that Howard has been reluctant to take the court for the resumption of the NBA season is that he does not want to distract from the cause of social justice, especially as it relates to the push for police reform.
Howard has released multiple statements on the subject, explaining that the goal of players like Kyrie Irving and Avery Bradley has been to give a voice to the players who were shut out of the discussions about resuming the season.
Howard indicated a reluctance to return with the Lakers this year but now is expected to play.
His agent, Charles Briscoe, explained Howard’s stance on the subject to ESPN:
The statement was about social injustice and racism. Yet everybody is still talking about whether basketball should be played. He isn’t saying that basketball shouldn’t be. He’s just saying that you should not be taking attention away from what’s going on in the country to talk about basketball. Basketball is just a sport, at the end of the day. But what’s going on with people dying in the streets, that’s something real. That statement, it had nothing to do with sports. It had everything to do with racism and social injustice.
Lately, Howard has had a front-row seat for that injustice.