“I’ll be honest,” Barnes said in a piece Wednesday for the Players Tribune. “For a moment, I felt like turning around. Not because I didn’t want to be there, but because I felt like an outsider, a total newcomer who was barging in on a community’s most sensitive hour.”
The city had been on lockdown, #DallasStrong and #BacktheBlue signs were scattered, and the citywide memorial service was up next. Barnes wasn’t sure whether to go so soon after arriving.
“I wanted to pay my respects, but I didn’t want to get in the way,” he said. “I talked about it with a friend who lives in Dallas — and he didn’t wait more than a second to respond. He encouraged me to go.”
His friend said everyone across the city would be tuned in for the service. The loss affected them all.
“In this town,” Barnes’ friend told him, “we’re a family.”
Barnes decided to join that family.
He watched Police Chief David Brown, and Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, among others mourn the losses. He didn’t want to stop there.
He began to think about what he could do for the city. Moving to Dallas meant more than just improving his game, he said, though he did set on-court goals.
“I had two big goals,” he said. “The first, of course, had to do with basketball. I came here to work hard and earn the respect of the fans. The second goal was more personal: I wanted to put down roots in Dallas. That was one of the upsides of signing a four-year deal.”
Barnes had long been interested in political activism and community involvement – “how communities come together to solve their differences,” he said.
“I’ve always been drawn to politics and social change. My parents instilled in me not only the importance of having a work ethic on the basketball court, but also the importance of having a commitment to your community.”
Before he could serve the community, Barnes knew he needed to better understand Dallas – its strengths, its weaknesses and its biggest needs. He organized a dinner with Dallas leaders including Brown, Cowboys great Emmitt Smith and Ron Kirk, Dallas’ first black mayor who served from 1995-2002. They talked poverty, community relations, racial profiling and more.
“I haven’t been involved in a discussion as honest and personal in a long time,” Barnes said of the dinner. “There was no shortage of disagreement about the fundamental social and political issues facing Dallas. But one thing was crystal clear: Everyone there cared deeply about this city. … and that doing nothing was unacceptable.”
Barnes hasn’t decided how he’ll pursue his involvement. But Kirk’s message to Barnes resonated.
“Whatever you do, stick with it,” Kirk said. “Be present.”
Barnes said he plans to.
Click here to read the full article in the Players Tribune.