BOSTON - With the ongoing terrorist attacks in Paris shaking the world, it would be hard for anyone to prepare for a game of basketball. But there was Thabo Sefolosha, the Swiss native who grew up just over the Franco-Swiss border and spent three seasons with French club Chalon-sur-Saone in Burgundy, studying game tape on his iPad.
Despite his friends in Paris being in the middle of a horror many Americans remember far too well, Thabo was plugged in to his iPad. When teammate Dennis Shroeder asked Sefolsoha to hold a towel while the German point guard cut it in half, Thabo stayed glued to the screen. With the death toll climbing into the hundreds, Sefolosha was aware of the horror, but calm and focused on the evening’s assignment.
But when asked about his state of mind ahead of Friday’s game against the Celtics, he went right back to Paris. "I heard from a few friends that live in Paris. It sounds like it’s pretty much chaos over there. It’s sad to see things like this happening, wherever it is in the world."
Sefolosha acknowledged the tragedy of the attacks, but implored the public not to recklessly point the finger at the Muslim community.
"When you look at the history a little bit and what’s been happening, especially in France, you have to wonder what is pushing people to do that," Sefolosha told CLNS Radio. "I think some of the political resitrictions and laws in place, I think it pushes people to feel like they’re outcast.
"When you point fingers at people and that’s a way they can express their irritation, it’s very sad to see. But at the same time, in no circumstances are what they doing is okay. I hope eventually it will stop."
Yet France has become a hotbed for ethnic and religious tension as its political atmosphere has become increasingly conservative in response to the Syrian refugee crisis and increase in terrorist attacks by Muslim extremist factions.
In 2010, France enacted a draconian law under President Nicolas Sarkozy, which banned religious clothing and accessories in public buildings such as schools. The European Court of Human Rights upheld the law in 2014. Tensions hit an explosive point with the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January this year. But Sefolosha doesn’t want to see an increase in the nation’s unstable polarization.
"I don’t know. It’s a broad question and I don’t think I can answer this now," Sefolosha said when asked what he wants to see change in France. "But I think definitely, at some point, pointing [the] finger at Islamic as a general group does [not do] anyone any good. I think that some terrorist people that uses Islam to make [an] act of terror has to be something that you can’t just blame it on everybody. Islam is a religion that is maybe the most religion [sic] that people believe in the most and a lot of those people are not terrorists. I think it’s important to separate the two and in the media especially, the right vision that’s going on."
Sefolosha has become a champion for the revived civil rights movement after he was the victim of police brutality at the hands of the New York Police Department. When asked about his history dealing with racial injustice back in Europe, he described learning to let it roll off his back.
"[Racial abuse] happened. But again, I think to me, honestly, to be a racist, I think it’s people who are not really smart. So I don’t really pay too much attention to it. I live my life the way I want to live it and I’m happy with the friends that I have around and family and people that believe in the same thing I do."
After a solemn handshake, Sefolosha said he will be ready to play his hardest. Then he put his headphones back in, picked up his iPad, and dived back into basketball.