John Wall posed for pictures, shook hands and distributed backpacks to 250 students Friday during his fourth “Back to School” event in northeast D.C.
But the Washington Wizards All-Star point guard had a more pressing issue to discuss.
“I know this week has been tough on our country with things not going the way we want them to, but the most important thing is you can’t use that as retaliation,” the superstar told the crowd during his John Wall Family Foundation’s annual event at Rosedale Community Center and Library. “No matter what color you are, we are all family.”
Wall was addressing violence at a white supremacist rally Saturday in Charlottesville, Virginia, which resulted in three deaths and dozens injured.
Police charged James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, with second-degree murder, accusing him of driving his car through a crowd of counter-protesters and killing Heather Heyer, 32.
Wall is one of several professional athletes in recent weeks to speak out against racism, injustice and the Trump administration, including Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who raised his fist in the air during the national anthem before an Aug. 10 preseason game in support of people of color.
And Thursday, NBA champion and Seat Pleasant, Maryland, native Kevin Durant told ESPN he won’t visit the White House if his Golden State Warriors are invited by President Trump, who has polarized the nation with his response to the Charlottesville incident.
Wall spoke about how the recent unrest has affected him.
“I want the kids to understand that we … can’t use that [as reason] to target anybody else,” he told reporters after distributing $50 packages of backpacks and school supplies. “We have to work and try to get things as best as we can and keep it positive.
“I want them to understand no matter where they’re coming from, having money or not having money, you can always try to be something,” he added. “If you want to be a teacher, a doctor, firefighter or basketball player, you got to strive and dedicate education to it and work hard every day.”
Wall, 26, will conduct his foundation activities Saturday in his hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina.
But Wall calls the District his second home and Washingtonians treat him as their native son.
Mziwandile T. Masimini, deputy director of recreation services for the city, read a proclamation for Wall from Mayor Muriel Bowser.
“We really want to say, ‘Thank you, John,’” Masimini said. “You’re an inspiration. As a son of the city, I know you have embraced us, as well.”