Every night they put her 3-year-old daughter in bed, sang to her and prayed with her. Then Jrue and Lauren Holiday spoke to each other about the state of the country. As protests against systemic racism and police brutality reverberated across America, a new injustice against the blacks seemed to come to light every day.
"He just felt that basketball didn't matter at the time," said Lauren about Jrue, a 30-year-old NBA star who grew up in Southern California. "(He thought)" So much injustice is happening to my own people. "
In those circumstances, was it worth playing basketball again, however much he wanted to be with his New Orleans Pelicans teammates? Was it advisable to spend months outside his family during a worsening pandemic – Lauren pregnant with her second child? His past actions have shown that basketball is not everything for him, but for his family.
The answer came to them one night. When it happened, it felt so easy.
He would gamble and donate the rest of his salary this season, about $ 5 million, to companies, nonprofits, and universities that serve the black community and the communities of colors.
"There had to be a reason why I thought it was worth leaving my family and pregnant wife to go into this bladder," said Jrue. "I think that gave me a good reason to go back and play, to feel like I was doing something for my people and this culture. Donating the rest of my contract was the ultimate decision as to why I was leaving."
The newly created Jrue and Lauren Holiday Fund has committed $ 1.5 million to organizations and businesses in New Orleans, $ 1 million in Indianapolis, where Lauren comes from, and $ 1.5 million in Los Angeles and donate to Compton. An additional $ 1 million will be given to black-owned small businesses in 10 U.S. cities, and $ 500,000 will go to historically black colleges and universities.
"We only hope that this is a blueprint and call for action for others who have the resources," said Emile Washington, who works with Athletes and Artists United for Social Change, an organization that helps distribute the resources .
Jrue wouldn't have hesitated to skip the rest of the season if he thought this was right for his family. In September 2016, he said goodbye after Lauren was diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant with Jrue Tyler or JT, as they are called.
The two had met at UCLA, where Lauren was an outstanding soccer player and a star newcomer to the basketball team. Holiday left UCLA after one season and was an NBA All-Star Point Guard until 2013 – the year he and Lauren got married. At that time, she had won gold medals with the US women's national team at the Olympic Games in Beijing and London.
"I'm from Indiana, which means there are still a lot of race problems in Indiana. When I was growing up, I was always aware of what happened," said Lauren, who is white. "I always hated injustice and opposed it … if it happens to you it's a little different. "
Until recently, she hadn't spoken about these experiences, and Jrue hadn't spoken about his own.
"I felt that keeping it and keeping it private was something that was acceptable not only to myself and my family, but also to the culture we built," said Jrue. "Not to be seen as a victim because this is likely to happen more than people think."
Jrue Holiday played for UCLA for one season before being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in 2009.
(Chris Morrison / US Presswire)
That changed this summer.
In June, Lauren wrote an article on the Players Tribune website describing many small cases of racism against her husband that she witnessed – and a large one.
She wrote that she and her sister-in-law were once stopped by the police without explanation. They did not have their driver's license with them and contacted Jrue, who said he would take her to the scene. When Jrue arrived, she wrote, the police immediately handcuffed him.
"The one time my wife talked about it was only once for me," said Jrue. "More than a few have happened. I think you just expected it beforehand and so what is it like to share it?"
His black friends and teammates weren't surprised to hear this story. It seemed almost normal to them.
The thing Lauren remembered most about the incident was the fear on her sister-in-law's face about the fear of her brother. She has also thought about the experience and how she will explain it to her daughter and son whom they will soon have.
"There are conversations his parents had with him that I'm sure my parents never had with my brother," said Lauren. "What happens if you are run over by how you should behave in certain situations? My family has to have these conversations to protect my children. It just depressed me."
Talking about these things is part of the holiday mission. Jrue hopes that they can create awareness.
"There is a part of me that feels like I haven't done enough, and maybe there are others who feel the same way," said Jrue. “If I had shared it earlier, not just me, but other people as well, it might have been a problem that (people) used to be more aware of. I am not annoyed. I feel like I'm in control of what I'm doing now. Although I didn't do my best then, I can do my best now. "
The other part of their mission is to use the money they have to make a difference.
Throughout the season, Jrue remains as connected as possible to the family charity, but his time is limited. While in the NBA bubble in Orlando, Florida, Lauren intends to select the recipients for the funds herself.
The company that supports them receives applications from organizations, businesses, and schools across the country and has contacted the mayor's offices in Compton, Indianapolis, and New Orleans to identify underserved businesses and nonprofits. The hope is to help micro businesses and organizations for which even $ 15,000 or $ 20,000 make a noticeable difference.
"Jrue and I are relational people, we are not transaction people," said Lauren. "We will not only support your company financially, but how can we support your company in other ways? Is there any coaching you need? Can we support you in any way by informing you about your company? "
Adjusting their budget to the foundation of the foundation was the least of the problems.
"It's about starting your family and generations, but I also want to teach my daughter and children that sharing is honestly important," said Jrue, who has earned over $ 100 million in the NBA. "God has blessed me with so much that it is only right to bless it forward."