Public Relations  >  News Center  >  News Releases  >  November 2020  >  November 24, 2020  >  Creighton alumni Korver, Tolliver among NBA players who met with Pope Francis
Creighton alumni Korver, Tolliver among NBA players who met with Pope Francis

Kyle Korver, Pope Francis and Anthony TolliverCreighton alumni Kyle Korver, BA’03, and Anthony Tolliver, BSBA’07, joined a delegation of NBA players that discussed racial justice with Pope Francis at the Vatican Nov. 23.

The group, which also included players Marco Belinelli, Sterling Brown and Jonathan Isaac, along with NBA players’ union executives, spoke with the pope about their “individual and collective efforts addressing social and economic injustice and inequality occurring in their communities,” according to the players’ union.

“We are extremely honored to have had this opportunity to come to the Vatican and share our experiences with Pope Francis,” Korver said, according to The Associated Press. “His openness and eagerness to discuss these issues was inspiring and a reminder that our work has had a global impact and must continue moving forward.”

The meeting took place as Pope Francis prepared for the December release of Let Us Dream, a book penned during the Vatican’s COVID-19 lockdown in which the pope writes of his support for renewed demand for racial justice in the United States following the killing of George Floyd and others at the hands of police.

The NBA and its players have taken an active role in the racial justice movement. In August, the Milwaukee Bucks — including Korver and Brown — refused to play a playoff game against the Orlando Magic following the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. The move sparked a wave of boycotts in professional sports across the nation.

“You’re champions,” the pope told the players in their meeting. “But also giving the example of teamwork, you’ve become a model, giving that good example of teamwork but always remaining humble … and preserving your own humanity.”

Anthony Tolliver presents Pope Francis with a basketballThe players presented Pope Francis with a commemorative basketball, a union-produced book about the players’ social justice efforts and an Orlando Magic jersey.

News of the meeting sparked a flurry of discussion from members of the Creighton community and others on social media. Several Creighton leaders also expressed excitement at the news.

“The inspiration that comes from seeing these NBA players meeting with Pope Francis — some of them former Creighton Bluejays — further illustrates the clear connections between our University’s Ignatian identity and our sincere commitment to grow toward engaging as an anti-racist institution,” said Christopher Whitt, PhD, vice provost of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. “The work of diversity and inclusion, as well as anti-racism, are vital parts of broader calls for justice. These NBA players as well as the pope shine as examples of how each of us can do our part in the push for justice regardless of our career path.”

“There is a moment of pride in this — but it’s also a tremendous challenge for us to continue to live up to what we preach,” Eileen Burke-Sullivan, STD, vice provost for Mission and Ministry at Creighton, told the Omaha World-Herald. “I am thrilled for them, and I am thrilled for Creighton. It’s just a wonderful synchronicity to get them together.”

Tolliver and Korver both returned to Creighton this fall and spoke about several social justice issues — including voter suppression, the Black Lives Matter movement, police reform and other topics — with the University community.

“What you can do is educate yourself on these different issues,” Tolliver said during his town hall. “I definitely encourage everybody in here to do that. To take time, to really understand what you feel like you're being called to impact. Go learn about it, and then go impact it in whatever way you can."

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