Heat's Udonis Haslem: 'Those guys that made those decisions in Minnesota were terrible people before they ever put the badge on'

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Heat's Udonis Haslem angry, vocal about situation and fallout in Minneapolis. - John McCall/South Florida Sun Sentinel/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS

Udonis Haslem is both troubled and torn.

What the Miami Heat captain has witnessed from afar has made this a disturbing week far beyond the concerns of an NBA season in limbo.

The death of George Floyd, the resulting firing of four Minneapolis policemen, the ensuing rioting and the ongoing racial tensions left the championship power forward compelled to turn to Instagram earlier this week to share thoughts that he understands will be viewed through numerous prisms.

“I have close friends and family in law enforcement,” the 39-year-old lifelong South Florida resident posted. “This doesn’t apply to everyone. There’s a lot of (bad) people in this world, but I’m the first to tell you there’s some damn good ones wearing that badge and we appreciate y’all.”

Friday, as he spoke with the Sun Sentinel about his Power Forward Through Hunger initiative that addresses food insecurity for Miami residents, Haslem offered perspective on the Minneapolis situation and the questioning of law enforcement.

“I just think people have got to be very careful about how they move, based on what they just saw,” he said of painting all of law enforcement with the same broad brush. “You’ve got to be very careful, because if somebody breaks into your house and it’s a burglar, who you gonna call? So I think, people just got to be very cautious about what they’re saying and how they’re reacting to it.

“Those guys that made those decisions in Minnesota were terrible people before they ever put the badge on. They didn’t just become terrible people when they got a badge on. Now, the badge maybe gave them a little bit more power to make terrible people make terrible decisions, but they already were terrible people.”

Haslem said he is too close with too many in law enforcement to accept such a singular view.

“I have a sister in law enforcement, my baby sister’s in law enforcement,” he said. “I have an uncle that’s in law enforcement. I have an uncle that’s in law enforcement who used to be on the court in every game with us, sitting right next to our bench. I have a cousin who’s in law enforcement, who grew up playing football in the city, went to the University of Miami, graduated, now he’s in law enforcement. I have another cousin who’s in law enforcement. I literally have 10 to 15 people in my family that’s in law enforcement.

“And I would trust those people with my life seven days a week and twice on Sunday. So when people make comments about law enforcement as a whole, I can’t agree with that, because I know different.”

Haslem paused, then continued.

“But I will agree there is something that needs to be done about what’s going on in America with law enforcement and with young people of color,” he said.

What Haslem said he has found heartening is how the NBA’s players have come together to condemn the killing of Floyd, with former teammate and current business partner Dwyane Wade among the most vocal on social media.

“I love how we rally around when things happen,” he said. “It sucks that it has to be something like this. But I love the way we stand all for one and one for all. You can take all these different guys from all these different teams who compete at the highest level, who are alpha males, who you often can’t even keep ’em in the room together for 30 minutes, but when something like this happens, you put all that aside and you come together for a common goal and a common cause.

“What’s right is right. And what’s wrong is wrong. And right now, everybody is focused on standing for what’s right.”

As for his Power Forward Through Hunger fundraiser, which addresses food insecurity for City of Miami residents experiencing job loss and economic need due to the COVID-19 pandemic, among prizes put up by Haslem are autographed memorabilia, personal food deliveries, the chance to join him on Instagram Live, with the grand-prize winner having the opportunity to choose between a round of golf with Haslem, a Heat VIP experience, a workout with Haslem, or a pizza-making session with Haslem at his 800 Degrees restaurant.

Details and entries can be found at letsengage.com/popup/power-forward-through-hunger.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)