'We Know How F*cked Up Things Are': Fred VanVleet Reacts to Rittenhouse Verdict

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet expressed disappointment with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict that came out on Friday, which found the teen not guilty.

Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers

Image via Getty/Mitchell Leff

Fred VanVleet #23 of the Toronto Raptors looks on against the Philadelphia 76ers

Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet expressed disappointment with the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict that came out on Friday, which found the 18-year-old not guilty on all charges after he shot and killed two people and wounded a third during a protests over the shooting of a Black man, Jacob Blake, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin last summer.

“I guess I’ll say that I’m not surprised. I think this is what the system is designed for is to protect white people, young white people, especially young white men. I’m not an expert of 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 I think it’s a little outdated, to say the least,” VanVleet said following the Raptors 108-89 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. 

In August of last year, amid countrywide protests spurred by Kenosha police shooting Jacob Blake multiple times in the back —protests continued by the NBA and the Toronto Raptors, who went on strike in the Orlando Bubble and almost put a stop to the season before the league ultimately met their demands—Rittenhouse traveled across state lines with an assault rifle. He moved into a crowd protesting the shooting of Blake and killed Joseph Rosenbaum, 36, and Anthony Huber, 26, and injured Gaige Grosskreutzin, 27, when he opened fire on them.

Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time, testified that he acted in self-defence after being charged with first-degree reckless homicide, first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, and first-degree recklessly endangering safety. His trial became a flashpoint in the debate over gun laws, vigilantism, and racial injustice in the United States, with the verdict setting a potentially dangerous precedent when it comes to “open carry” laws and expanded self-defence rights in the country. Currently, three men are on trial for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, claiming self-defence because they say he tried to get control of a shotgun one was carrying despite having chased him through a suburban neighborhood when he was taking a jog.

“I think that we’ve gotta continue to use the tools that we have at our disposal. 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,” VanVleet said.

“But, again, we’ve gotta continue to do all the fighting that we can each and every day. We’ve gotta encourage people to keep educating themselves on issues and how we can change some of these people in these positions.”

The Raptors, who have been one of the most progressive and outspoken institutions in sports over the last few years, announced that they held team meetings in wake of the news on Friday and decided to focus on the game at hand before using their off-day on Saturday to make wellness staff available to players and hold “open forum [discussions] and communicate with the players and those staff members that are here,” according to head coach Nick Nurse. 

The National Basketball Social Justice Coalition was formed last summer during the players’ strike within the Orlando Bubble in reaction to the shooting of Jacob Blake. They released a statement on Friday in regard to the verdict, saying: 

“Our thoughts are with the families of those whose lives were taken in this tragedy. The right to peacefully protest is a bedrock of our democracy and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition remains committed to preserving that right for all. Any forms of vigilantism in our society are unacceptable.”

Others around the NBA expressed a similar sentiment as VanVleet on Friday, indicating that they were disappointed but not necessarily surprised by the verdict.

“Speaking for myself, it was definitely disappointing, but at the same time, it really wasn’t surprising about the verdict,” Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton said on Friday.” “I watched [the trial] a little bit and was able to keep up with it, but it’s something that I think we’ve all seen over and over again.”

“Clearly these situations are disappointing, and it’s important to not become demoralized and for people to continue to fight for the type of justice and equality that serves all,” Brooklyn Nets coach Steve Nash said. “While I think it raises a lot of eyebrows, questions, a lot of pain, we recognize there has to be a path forward.”

not surprised at all , smh ...

— Ja Morant (@JaMorant) November 19, 2021

The System Is Broken.

— Karl-Anthony Towns (@KarlTowns) November 19, 2021

“I don’t know if it’ll be our lifetime or our kids’ lifetime or our grandkids’ lifetime, but we’ve 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: Just wanna keep encouraging people to stay locked in to the fight. 

“There’s gonna be setbacks along the way and this is one of them but we know how fucked up things are and we have to do our part to try to change that.”

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