Coach and players pay homage to Ahmaud Arbery a year after being slain

Charles Crews and his players posed for a photo of solidarity for the memory of Ahmaud Arbery.

Coach and players pay homage to Ahmaud Arbery a year after being slain
March 03
13:23 2021

February 23 marked one year since the senseless murder of Ahmaud Arbery. The death of Arbery, and several other Black people, sparked protests around the nation last summer. To help ensure the memory of Arbery is not lost, Charles Crews, head coach of the Kernersville Lady Comets and Team Crews, and his team participated in several acts to honor Arbery.

Crews and his team took a picture of solidarity, ran 2.23 miles, and donated funds to the 2:23 Foundation. Crews felt it was important, as a person of color, to continue shining a light on the killings of unarmed Black men and women in the United States.

“We always talk about platforms and people have different platforms in the world and the way I looked at it, basketball is big to me, but social justice is even bigger to me,” Crews said about why he chose to honor Arbery. “It just got to a point where I said, what can I do in solidarity over Ahmaud Arbery?  

“I pretty much told everyone that this season I am going to use my platform and we are going to raise awareness. For example, my AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) uniforms will have messages like equality and unity on them, because we recognize it’s a privilege and these kids aren’t blind to what is going on in the world.”

Along with being an AAU coach, Crews also has a private basketball skills training business that is thriving. He says many people told him to stay out of the political lane and just focus on his business.

“People used to tell me all the time, ‘don’t focus on that political stuff, just focus on the coaching and training’,” he said. “As a Black man, I couldn’t do that.”

All the players on the Lady Comets team were aware of the Arbery story, so they were all 100 percent on board with what Crews presented to them.

“All of them knew the story, but they didn’t know the story, if you know what I mean,” said Crews. “I told them that none of them have to do it, but they were like ‘We want to.’ One of my players said, ‘You’re our leader and whatever our leader wants to do, I’m with it.’”

Crews was elated to have all his players participate in the honoring of Arbery. He says it’s an honor to have the opportunity to teach his players more than the game of basketball.

“I was so proud of the girls and it made me feel really good that we could step away from basketball,” Crews said about his team. “It’s bigger than basketball and I tell the kids all the time that when stuff like this happens, especially to young men and women, it touches me a different way.  

“I have 60 kids in this program, all under the age of 16, and I just think about if, God forbid, something like this happened to one of my kids, you would think that was one of my biological kids. It was really just to raise awareness and to let them know what is going on in the world.”

As a business owner, the thought that he may offend someone did cross his mind. He felt that if someone has a problem with him bringing awareness to social injustice, then too bad for them.

“My main thing is, I have a voice and as long as I am not disrespecting anyone, as long as I am not derogatory, or cursing, this is a peaceful protest,” he said. “I told my kids that if they didn’t want to do it, they didn’t have to, and I would not treat them any different.”  

On top of having his players fully on board, Crews also had the blessing of the parents to move forward as well. He says many of the parents thanked him for ‘going above and beyond’ as a coach by sharing this information with his team.

One of the more interesting conversations Crews had with one of his players involved a young lady who is biracial. Crews asked her if she was sure she wanted to participate and why. She responded that to the outside world, she is not biracial, she is Black and is treated as such.  

“I am always proud when they accomplish things on the basketball court, but I was super proud of them for supporting me with this and taking part in it with me.”

Crews said this is just the beginning of what he has planned for the year when it comes to his activism.  

“This is my mission and I feel like this is my place,” Crews said about his plans for the year. “Yeah, I am a basketball coach and a basketball trainer and that’s my calling, but also as an African American man that has seen a lot in this world, my goal is to have these kids make it to adulthood and educated. I am not telling them what’s going on in the world to scare them, I just want them to be knowledgeable of what’s going on. It could have been me or anyone else that we know.

“The last thing I told them was, ‘When this is all said and done and you’re playing in college or going on with your career in life, if all you can say is I was a good basketball coach, then I didn’t do a good job of being a good role model’.”

Crews says he has been inspired by Malcolm X for quite some time. He said Malcolm’s words encouraged him to use his voice for the greater good and wants to instill that same thing into his players.  

During the pandemic, Crews said his business has continued to increase. He says if he has to be fake and pretend the things happening to Black and brown people don’t matter just to make people do business with him, he doesn’t need their money.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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