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Fred VanVleet's resolve remains unshakeable despite his disappointment with the latest news.
Hours after a jury acquitted Kyle Rittenhouse of murdering two people and severely injuring a third at a Black Lives Matter protest in 2020, VanVleet opened up about the full gamut of feelings that came with the news — and what it represents within the United States justice system.
"I think that this is what the system is designed for: To protect white people, young white people, and especially young white men," VanVleet said on Friday, after the Toronto Raptors' game against the Sacramento Kings. "I'm not an expert in the judicial system other than to say that it's not designed for anybody other than that. I think it's a little outdated to say the least."
The Raptors held a meeting following the Rittenhouse verdict, and intend to meet again on Saturday to discuss further action. Head coach Nick Nurse also said that players will be able to meet with the team's wellness staff for open discussions about the event.
Through the 2021-22 season, Raptors players and coaches have spoken to media in front of a backdrop that reads "Black Lives Still Matter," a strong indication of the team's stance on the racial issues in North America.
"I think that we gotta continue to use all the tools that we have at our disposal," VanVleet said. "I think that things are changing and they will continue to change, but we can't lose sight, we can't lose focus, we can't lose hope. I think that some of these verdicts and these decisions are directed, and they're meant to diminish the fight that people all over the country are fighting for."
Rittenhouse was charged with five felony counts after he opened fire during a protest in Kenosha, Wis., over the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man. His defence claimed the now 18-year-old was acting in self defence.
The trial was littered with controversy, starting with its judge, Bruce Schroeder, who was more than once accused of a bias toward Rittenhouse over the past three weeks in court.
"If you followed that trial at all, it would have been nice to have somebody else in the judge's seat," said VanVleet.
VanVleet is hardly the first athlete to speak out about the verdict. Several other NBA players and coaches also expressed their opinions — the vast majority of those critical of Rittenhouse's acquittal — as well as personalities from multiple other sports.
These athletes are using their platform to promote systemic change.
"We've got a lot of work to do. I don't know if it'll be in our lifetime, or our kids' lifetime, or our grandkids' lifetime, but we gotta do our part each and every day," VanVleet said. "For me, personally, that's what I'm focusing on. As a leader of a family and this team and this organization, I just want to keep encouraging people to stay locked into the fight and focus. There's going to be setbacks along the way and this is one of them. But we know how f***ed up things are and we gotta do our part to try to change that."
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