Gators guard Scottie Lewis prepared to risk it all for his beliefs
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - Athletes across the nation are using their platform to spark change, including right here at the University of Florida.
People around the country have come together the last few month, protesting for ’Black Lives Matter’ following several police brutality incidents of Black men and women - starting with Georgia Flloyd and Breonna Taylor and coming to a head with the recent shooting of Jacob Blake.
“The fact that it could have been me and I could be in a different situation if I wasn’t dribbling a basketball, I realized that and I opened my eyes to that,” Gators guard Scottie Lewis said. “People fail to realize it could be any of us.”
Over the past few months, Lewis has used his platform seeking change, seeking an opportunity to raise awareness on racial injustice and police brutality.
“It starts in our backyard,” said the Florida basketball player during a zoom call with reporters on Wednesday. “I think people are starting to realize it’s bigger than sports, it’s bigger than one person. It’s bigger than a presidential term. It’s bigger than who we have in the office. It’s a war of the people. It’s a battle for everyone to face.”
During his interview, Lewis told reporters he doesn’t have enough Gators gear to use as a ‘shield’ from being profiled. Lewis just wants people to listen. He wants people to come into the conversation with an open mind.
“I think my message is extremely universal. It’s just simply to spread peace, love and positivity throughout our world,” explained Lewis. “A lot of people are saying stuff and transitioning into a political format, simply because it’s what’s trending right now, which is a sad thing, obviously.”
Lewis spent the last few months during the COVID-19 shutdown, thinking about how he can make a difference. He organized several protests, in not only his hometown of Bronx, N.Y., but also right here in Gainesville - including the Black Lives Matter march last week.
According to Lewis, he realized that in order to help the community and spread the message, he needed to use the platform his talent provided him. Along with other athletes around the country, he realized it was the right time to come together and make a change.
“The world is ran by money, and it’s been a history where the more athletes go out of their fans’ comfort zones and talk about things that pertain to not sports, it makes people feel uncomfortable,” he said. “The fact that we’re taking ourselves out of the player and making people understand that we’re people before we’re players, it was shocking at first. I think for my generation and the generation that’s in the NBA now, I think it’s the first time a multitude of athletes are focusing on one thing and being extremely loud about it.”
For Lewis, his battle goes beyond race. It is a humanitarian issue.
“When you go to protests and you look out to the crowd you see a very diverse group of people all fighting for one thing,” he said. “I guess in retrospect it’s bigger than African Americans. It’s involving the LGBTQ communities, Black people, white people, people of color all over the world who have felt less human simply because of what other people say about them.”
This is a fight Lewis is prepared to fight for. He is prepared to risk his own safety for.
“I understand that me being; the louder I get the more of a target I am, and if I have to potentially lose my life over something I believe in, I put myself into the realm where I’m willing to do that,” Lewis said. “It’s bigger than what I’m going to say or what I’m going to do. It’s bigger than what any of us athletes are going to do. This is a large scale, this is over 400-plus years of history that we’re trying to break down and get people to understand. Most people look at black people and say, ‘He or she is crying for help’ instead of we’re asking to be on a similar playing field.”
Lewis says he is in constant dialogue with not only his fellow athletes, including Gainesville native and fellow teammate, Tre Mann, and with those at the University Athletic Association - trying to find a way to help the community around them.
“You’re not going to be able to reach everyone. What you want to see is what you’re going to see. If you choose to see black people or people of color in a certain light, the world is going to give you what you want to see. If you’re going to be close-minded and say ‘black people do this’ or ‘people of color do this’ and ‘they’re only known for this ,’ you’re only going to see that. It’s a hard task in order to get people to become more open-minded and see that black is beautiful and there’s so much culture behind people that don’t look like you.”
Lewis understands that change takes time, however, he does not want the momentum to stop.
“I think the more that we can focus on more in what truly matters.. go outside of our comfort zone and force others outside of their comfort zone the better. If we can make sure we’re the generation that stop history from repeating itself, I think we could be headed in a good direction.”
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