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NWBA's ED/CEO Response to Tragic Death of George Floyd

06/01/2020, 3:00pm CDT
By Will Waller

NWBA Family and Friends,

Our hearts ache for the families of the most recent victims of police brutality, including George Floyd. The video of his callous murder was grotesque and repugnant, sparking justifiable outrage. The protests taking place across cities in the United States and globally, however, are not the result of an isolated case. Instead, they are the cumulative effect of voices going unheard. The righteous exasperation is about other inequities, as well, which the COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated.

Like never before, African Americans are imploring other races to use their voice to demand change. I’m proud of how the NWBA family has reacted, many of whom have made their voices heard and actions seen. For others, this will be a subject that they are less comfortable talking about much less speaking out about.

As an organization, we have a couple of factors that allow us to play an active role in advancing an important discussion on race and discrimination. The obvious piece is that we are a sport organization, and we know that sport can be a uniting factor. Through a pursuit of common goals, we are more willing to let our guard down and build trusting relationships with people from often different backgrounds. My advice is that you take full advantage of the opportunity to better understand their perspective, so you can find and inform your voice.

Although much smaller in relation, being people with disabilities allows us a glimmer of what it means to be left out. Sometimes that is the result of physical barriers, but more often it is bias and perception that leads to exclusion of people with disabilities.  That is in no way meant to create a false equivalence between racism and ableism: they are not the same. I only hope that by putting that into perspective, NWBA members and their friends and family can consider their own feelings when they or their loved ones are left out when forming a perspective on race in America. 

If our members seek to understand and seek to make a difference, then we can have an impact greater than ourselves. I can’t help but recall a story about our Founder, Dr. Tim Nugent in the 1960s. When on one of his bus tours with his athletes spreading awareness of wheelchair basketball (and in so doing advancing rights for people with disabilities), they went to a diner to eat. The local establishment refused to serve the black athletes on the team. Instead of allowing his white and black athletes to be treated differently, Dr. Nugent refused to do business with that diner and left.

From the NWBA’s inception in 1949, Dr. Nugent was focused on advocating for people with disabilities - a group that was relegated to an existence that was less than. Advocating for equality is the essence of who we are, and we are the beneficiaries. That advocacy is just as critical now as it ever was. In addition to doing so for other people with disabilities, we must ensure that we are using our voice to support others who are treated as less than.

Much love,

Will

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