By Rory Carroll
(Reuters) - NBA great Ray Allen believes more investment in underserved communities is needed if the rallying cry that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement is going to lead to meaningful change.
The sharpshooting Hall of Famer, who won championships with the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat, has long been an advocate for social justice causes and thinks now is the time to make overdue improvements.
"We've talked for years that Black lives matter," Allen told Reuters.
"But Black lives only matter when you start putting funding into these communities, when you start making sure these issues don't continue to exist and that people are properly cared for.
"When you start making sure teachers are paid handsomely, that schools aren't run down and there isn't bad drinking water coming out of the faucets, that's when you show me that Black lives matter."
Improving access to medical care should also be a priority, especially as the government begins to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines.
Communities of color have been hit the hardest by the pandemic but some are mistrustful of a medical establishment that has exploited them in the past, like in the infamous Tuskegee study in which Black men with syphilis were denied a cure.
"I think the first step is just admitting there has been wrongdoing," Allen said.
"Black and brown people have been infected at greater rates with COVID, so how do we make sure that we're educating those people in underserved communities - those that have been left behind to some extent by the medical profession."
Allen, 45, said the lack of pharmacies in communities of color was a clear sign of the disparity in access to medical care.
"There are pharmacy deserts in these urban communities, so Black and brown folks have to travel outside of their neighborhoods to get their prescriptions," he said.
"Now we're talking about getting vaccines and you have to travel to make sure you get the necessary treatment that you deserve.
"The first step we have to take to mending these fences is admitting this is a problem, and then try to figure out how we can reinforce the neighborhoods with better information to make sure people have access to the things they need."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond)