Davidson’s Kellan Grady fights for social justice on front lines and behind the scenes

The Wildcats basketball player, who was the target of racist remarks during a protest in town, has worked to educate children on equality

Davidson guard Kellan Grady. (Gary Landers / AP Photo)

Kellan Grady is the kind of basketball player that wants the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

It’s a philosophy that carries over to his life off the court.

So when the Davidson star got a phone call from a teammate that competing demonstrations were taking place near campus recently, his first reaction was to steer his car in that direction and check it out. Rather than being a bystander watching from the sidelines in the push for social justice, he quickly found himself smack in the middle of the action.

“I saw one side with passion and love and respect filled in their hearts. It was a very contrasting demonstration to the one across the street,” he said, recalling the events of Aug. 27 in an interview with the North State Journal. “So I pulled over, got out and saw things escalate into chaos. Then the dominoes started falling.”

It was more than just dominoes that were falling.

When a Davidson faculty member he recognized was physically assaulted by a counter-protester, he stepped forward to help. Having already been called out as a “Black Lives Matter thug” and worse, he quickly found himself in the middle of an emotional confrontation with the man with the bullhorn.

Grady managed to keep his composure despite standing face-to-face with someone calling him any number of demeaning names until he was finally pulled away.

“Initially you’re filled with rage and you want to react in a certain way, but thankfully I had the composure to keep the bigger picture in mind,” the senior guard said. “I’m always cognizant of representing Davidson the right way and representing myself in a composed manner.

“It was a tough moment to endure. But as I’ve said to a lot of the people that have reached out to me, I don’t want that to deflate me or defeat this movement in which we’re all seeking a quest for social justice.”

That doesn’t mean Grady was about to remain silent over the incident.

Instead of escalating tensions by shouting back insults at his antagonist, the senior guard took to social media to relate details of his experience and use it to call attention to the racism and hatred that is running rampant in our society.

Although his four-page thread on Twitter may have been overshadowed by the protests and boycotts executed by higher-profile sports entities in the days following the death of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, his words resonated with those in the Davidson community.

In a response to Grady’s post, Wildcats assistant coach Kevin Kuwik praised his team’s leading scorer by thanking him for standing up for “those who are different from us.

“That is what it really is all about,” Kuwik wrote. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but day after day we need to keep striking at that stone, making that ripple in the pond, putting that penny in the jar and someday … for all of our kids, we will be in a better place.”

Head coach Bob McKillop was equally as supportive. After being told by Grady what had happened, he immediately called off that day’s practice.

“He spoke to us and said, ‘We didn’t work out today because it’s not business as usual,’” Grady said, calling McKillop a confidant and role model. “He made a very powerful statement and really challenged us to set an example and hold each other accountable in a matter we want the world to follow.”

That’s something Grady has been doing for a while now. Earlier this summer, the senior sociology major was so moved by the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery earlier this summer that he started a movement of his own.

It’s called CARE, an acronym for College Athletes for Respect and Equality, and it’s dedicated to educating and empowering the next generation to resist the lure of hatred and bring about positive change in the world.

“The purpose behind CARE is reading to kids and opening up for discussion questions using our platform as college athletes to help impact the younger generation on issues that are especially relevant right now,” Grady said. “I’m grateful that the reception has been positive so far. A lot of athletes, fellow peers here at Davidson, are willing to get on board and have reached out looking to impact young people in a positive manner.”