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D’Angelo Russell Turned His Presser Into A Thoughtful Roundtable Discussion

Russell listening to the discussion.
Screenshot: Minnesota Timberwolves/YouTube

Shortly after the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Spurs 96-88 on Sunday and snapped a seven-game losing streak, D’Angelo Russell oversaw something rare and cathartic during a postgame video press conference. The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski asked Russell the final question of the presser, setting him up to reflect on last week’s storming of the U.S. Capitol. But before giving his opinion, the Timberwolves guard opened up the floor for the beat reporters on the call to reflect on their feelings about the traumatic affair.

“I’m not in any rush right now, I think it’s the perfect time to do this,” Russell said, before he named off the media on the call. “We got Jon, Dane [Moore], Britt [Robson], Jace [Frederick], Chris [Hine]. I’d like to get you guys’ opinion first, and then we can play it that way, because we obviously know what my opinion is, we know what everybody else felt, but we don’t get to hear you guys on any of that stuff, so I’d love to hear your opinion and we can play tennis with that.” Everyone on the call seemed to welcome the opportunity to unburden themselves and share their thoughts.

After the beat writers had spoken, Russell gave his own opinions, which Krawczynski transcribed:

“For one, I feel like it was let. We let that happen as a country, a higher power, whatever you want to say, we let that happen. It brought eyes to the unfairness of what we’re living in this country. It just brought more eyes to it. I will say that with all this going on, it’s triggered a lot of attention toward just this topic in general. It’s allowing us to sit back and think about how we’re going to respond to it as a nation, as an individual, as a teacher. Anything you do, your voice is going to matter.

“A lot of young kids nowadays, they probably won’t see this and they probably won’t understand what’s going on, but it is a revolution. It is a change. It is something that, I feel like it only can go up from here. Being able to recognize what’s right and what’s wrong in these situations and see how people are taken advantage of. …

“It’s just simple. There’s right and there’s wrong. Why be wrong when everybody’s watching? Why say the wrong thing when everybody’s listening? This topic is so touchy. I can go on for hours. I can go on for however long about it. But the fact that we’re bringing attention to it and a lot of people are being educated on this topic that aren’t educated. The fact that some of you guys were embarrassed. I think that’s the right step and the right direction to keep seeing the change and keep bringing awareness to this topic.

“There’s not a lot we can do besides what we can do. Just bringing awareness is what we can do at this point.”

The Athletic

Russell’s willingness to turn the question back on those asking it upended the typically transactional, unidirectional nature of beat reporting, as well as the stigmas against vulnerability. It’s a credit to Russell that he was motivated to create a space for honest reflection, and a credit to the reporters that they met the opportunity with thoughtful, considerate answers. Amid a pandemic that’s currently overwhelming the NBA and just after the shock of watching a violent mob attempt an insurrection encouraged by the president, it’s OK not to have every question focused on the T-Wolves beating the Spurs in January.