Alex Caruso is in a unique place with the Lakers — and the NBA — as a white player who has made it his mission to stand with his Black brothers in the fight for social justice.
He explained how it “cost zero dollars and zero cents” to treat all equally “regardless of race, gender, age, political views.”
When Caruso joins his teammates in Orlando, Fla., for the NBA season restart at Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex later this month, the 6-5 guard will use his voice to bring awareness to social issues.
The NBA, which was shut down on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic, and the National Basketball Players Assn. have discussed ways to use messaging to address racial inequality across the country.
“Going forward as to how it relates to this team and the league, I’m 100% backing Black teammates, Black coaches, anybody who I’ve never had the opportunity to live the life they have, to experience the things they do,” Caruso said Wednesday on a video conference call after a workout at the team’s practice facility. “Part of my role as the white guy on the team and a white guy in the league is understanding and realizing I’m never going to understand what they actually go through … but being there to support them and be a crutch for them to lean on whenever they need it.”
Caruso said he was impressed listening to Lakers legend and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during a video conference call that the Hall of Famer had with his teammates early last month.
The conversation left Caruso wanting to do his part for change and to keep the moment going strong.
“Like I said from my perspective of being a white guy in a predominately Black league, just tell the truth,” he said. “Tell what’s going on, be an advocate for the people and be a voice for the people that can’t be heard. It’s a long-run game. This isn’t going to change in a month, probably won’t get changed in a year. It’s going to be time and time again where you’re going to have to step up, be courageous, use your voice and try to make an impact and change lives for the better.”
Caruso is not sure how his role will change when the Lakers resume play without starting guard Avery Bradley, who opted not to play because of health concerns for his young son.
Even though the Lakers officially signed veteran guard J.R. Smith on Wednesday, Caruso said he’ll be ready to fill any void when called upon.
He averaged 5.4 points and 2.1 assists in 58 games. He shot 35.5% from the three-point range, 49.6% from the field and displayed an all-around skill set that included solid defense.
“I’m not sure if I’m going to be the sole provider of everything that Avery did,” Caruso said. “That’s a lot to ask for just because of how good he is at what he does. But I’m definitely going to be ready to fill part of that gap and that need.”