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New Orleans Pelicans release statement condemning police brutality and announce creation of new coalition involving JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball

Gayle Benson is eager to make a difference and hopes players from both the Pelicans and Saints can make a powerful impact.

New Orleans Pelicans v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Team owner Gayle Benson has issued a statement on behalf of the New Orleans Pelicans and New Orleans Saints not only condemning police brutality, which recently resulted in the death of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police, but also announcing the creation of the Social Justice Leadership Coalition.

JJ Redick and Lonzo Ball will join linebacker Demario Davis to unearth potential solutions with fellow teammates as the ultimate goal will be “to advocate for issues of change when and where we are able to in black and brown communities.”

One week ago today, George Floyd was tragically and senselessly murdered. Anger, sadness and protest followed throughout our nation in response to this unjust murder. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of George Floyd.

There are no written words, nor the timing of those words that can properly honor the life of George Floyd. We stand against police brutality in any form. Statements are words; unified action towards a solution is what needs to come from this now.

Both the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans organizations take a tremendous amount of pride in working with our players and community leaders to impact meaningful change.

Within the last few years we have worked closely with Saints LB Demario Davis on social justice reform projects such as supporting the local public defender’s office. We donated professional office space in Benson Tower to support Operation Restoration, a program empowering women impacted by incarceration to successfully re-enter the community.

We support these types of programs as well as programs that are on the forefront of the Players Coalition mission. There are many reform projects that face our society including working with our police departments to help improve citizen relationships, supporting the public defender’s office and working to impact prison reform. We are proud of our work with the District Attorney’s office supporting victim’s issues as well. These are all complicated and yet they must be addressed together.

These are not programs that were born out of this tragedy, but long before, in an effort to change a course of action and make systemic changes in social justice. One of the things I am proud of as owner is the leadership of our players on both the Saints and Pelicans. They share my sincere feeling in caring about our community and they care about the issues that face our community.

Today, we spoke with Demario, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick. These players are passionate about finding a solution and working in solidarity with their fellow teammates. They are all committed to change, addressing action items and building towards future social change.

I am proud to have them in our organization. We reached out seeking their advice and direction on what we can be doing more precisely to directly impact systemic change for a more just world. These are daunting initiatives, but if unified in these efforts we can make positive change. Our organization has always been a beacon of bringing our community together. We have the unique opportunity to work together with our current NBA and NFL players to find more solutions. There is still so much more work to do.

I stand with them and I will rely on their leadership and direction to make sure we are making the most powerful impact we can. And I am proud to announce that these three players will join me in a newly created Social Justice Leadership Coalition, within our organization. I welcome any of our other players to join as well. Our goal will be to advocate for issues of change when and where we are able to in black and brown communities. Hopefully our work will be a model for others. They will have my full support.

A few years ago, our organization created a Diversity and Inclusion Council, made up of our employees. The Council strives to provide a voice in the company for all employees, especially those historically marginalized. They provide managers with training in understanding and eliminating unconscious bias in our recruiting efforts to educate our leaders on developing an inclusive recruiting mentality to create a better workforce.

This is what we should be doing in these trying times. This is not about making statements to appease people. This is about making a difference and working together. We have a lot of work to do to impact real change. I pray we can continue to advance this unity, peacefully.

Prior to today’s letter from Mrs. Benson, a number of Pelicans had already either voiced their support for social change or even followed through with some form of action. For instance, Lonzo Ball, alongside his brothers LaMelo and LiAngelo, posted a picture of themselves on Instagram attending a protest in the Los Angeles area.

Nearly a week ago, Derrick Favors referenced Colin Kaepernick, the once NFL quarterback who chose to peacefully protest police brutality and racial injustice by famously kneeling during the playing of national anthem before the start of San Francisco 49ers games.

Other Pelicans who have made remarks on the issue in recent days include Jrue Holiday, Frank Jackson, JJ Redick, Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Jaxson Hayes.

In case you’re unaware, nearly all of the teams in the league have already pledged their public support, attempting to raise awareness and condemning prejudice to spur significant change.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver also issued an internal memo to league office employees yesterday, pointing out “racism, police brutality and racial injustice remain part of everyday life in America and cannot be ignored.”

America isn’t in a good place right now so the NBA and its socially responsible cast of franchises and players are volunteering their voices and trying to be positive difference makers. With today’s news, the Pelicans and Saints appear eager to take it one step further, by looking to soon identify the issues in the region and then spreading positive change throughout New Orleans.