ST. LOUIS — If you've heard Cuonzo Martin talk before, you likely know he's one of the most thoughtful and passionate coaches in the country.
When Martin talks, people listen. These days, the East St. Louis native isn't talking on TV or in press conferences after games, though. He's talking to his team about racism and the current unrest in the country.
Martin took some time to talk about everything going on after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, with 5 On Your Side Sports Director Frank Cusumano.
"I think the thing with this situation why it seems like the movement is different among all people in all walks of life an all nationalities," Martin said. "I think the difference is that we're able to stop and there's no tomorrow. There's no sporting event so we can sweep it under the rug or a championship a week later. I think this is who we are as a nation right now and we have to address this situation."
"If all lives truly matter, then why aren't we all protesting? It can't just be half. Because if they all matter then we shouldn't have space to protest and if they all matter then we wouldn't be protesting because it all would be solved. So we have to understand when we say 'black lives matter', there's a situation that is taking place," Martin said. "Black men in most cases are being gunned down in these communities and we have to find a way to solve this problem."
"How many white people would say, 'I'd love to live in that black person's shoes. That's a great life.' I'm not talking about LeBron James or Michael Jordan or Beyonce. I don't think many would say that they would," Martin said.
As for how he's addressing the state of things with his team, which is predominately black, Martin has always known his role as a coach has gone beyond the game of basketball.
"We talk about life issues all the time... And for me it's just understanding that this is real life stuff. We have to deal with it. How do we move forward," Martin said. "And if you feel the need to protest be sound in how you go about your business. And do it because your heart says it, not let me jump on board because this is cool or fun. Do it because your heart says to."
Martin also said he brought in the police chief of Columbia, Missouri, to address his team and start a conversation. Martin said after the meeting a few of his players actually said they were now interested in a career in law enforcement.