— Golden St. Warriors (@warriors) February 15, 2015
“I’m going to send them the shoes I wore yesterday. And hopefully they know that I’ve been thinking about them.” —Steph Curry
It can seem like such a small thing, but in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy, Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry made the most important statement of the NBA’s All-Star Weekend. As the smooth-shooting Curry proceeded to win Saturday’s heavily branded, hyper-commercialized Three-Point Contest in dynamic fashion, he chose to do so while having #CurryFORDEAH and #RIPDEAH written on his shoes. Both were in reference to Deah Barakat, the young dental student murdered along with his wife, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and her younger sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, last week in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. All three were beautiful people who took part in numerous community charities and activities. Deah was someone who traveled to the Middle East to do free dental work for 200 Palestinian refugee children in 2013. He was also a hoops fanatic, who would wear jerseys with Curry’s number 30 on them and described himself on social media as an “aspiring Splash Brother,” a reference to Curry and his backcourt mate Klay Thompson.
For Curry to even know that there was this extraordinary person who admired his play and lost his life happened because of the efforts of those trying to make sure that Deah, Yusor and Razan are not forgotten. The killings, which one can believe was either an anti-Islamic hate crime or “a parking dispute,” have sparked widespread mourning and outrage. Chris Hayes, host of MSNBC’s All In, said, “It feels to me, as someone observing this admittedly from the outside, like a galvanizing moment for Muslim Americans—a Trayvon Martin moment, a Michael Brown moment—for Muslim America.” Their funeral drew thousands. Demonstrations against anti-Islamic bigotry have taken place in several US cities. Vigils have been organized as well, one of which I attended in DC, where freezing evening weather did not stop hundreds from gathering. Their killings also sparked the much debated but very effective Twitter hashtag #muslimlivesmatter, which played a critical role in pushing the story from being largely unreported in the mainstream media to the subject of widespread discussion. All of this—the demonstrations, the hashtags, the vigils—has been an effort to fight the invisibility of actual real life Arabs and Muslims in the United States, beyond scapegoating and beyond the Fox News/Bill Maher caricatures.
And then there is Steph Curry, a leading candidate for NBA MVP as well as a leading candidate to be the new face of the league, saying after the Three-Point Shootout, “Once I got to know who Deah was as a person and the stories that everybody was telling about him, it only seemed right to honor him and his family and let them know people were thinking about them, they’re not alone and hopefully to give them some kind of peace and comfort. He was a special guy. I just did my little part to shed that light toward him.”
This matters. I spoke to Ramah Kudaimi who has been active organizing remembrances in DC. She is also a serious sports fan. Ramah said to me, "In the past few days the media has gone from ignoring the murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan to trying to pass it off as a parking dispute issue in an attempt to not discuss anti-Muslim bigotry in this country due in part to US policies like the war on terror. Steph bringing attention to these three wonderful people and their families sends a message that everyone should know what happened and their story needs to be told. It was a beautiful gesture and hopefully will bring some solace to their families knowing people do care about the lives of their children.”
Deah’s family has said that the 23-year-old loved “basketball and anything Stephen Curry.” For one night, basketball and Steph Curry loved him back. As Curry said, “Even though we never met, I think it will hopefully mean a lot to his family and friends that knew what kind of a basketball fan he was to have some kind of peace knowing that people are thinking about him and they’re not alone.”