Peter Jok hasn’t played much basketball in the past week or so.
But while he hasn’t been exercising his legs or his ailing back on the court for the Iowa basketball team, the Hawkeyes star opened his heart and expressed what was going on in his head.
Jok, who was born in Sudan before fleeing to the United States with his mother and three siblings at the age of 3, posted a message on Instagram on Sunday night, providing his thoughts on President Donald Trump’s executive order temporarily banning immigration from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen and indefinitely banning refugees from Syria.
Jok’s statement: “Although I am a naturalized citizen of the United States and not affected by Trump’s Executive Order on immigration, a lot of my friends and family are. Like the Lost Boys and thousands of Sudanese who came to this country as refugees, America has been home to me because I grew up here. It’s unfortunate the order has/will affect so many families and Sudanese athletes playing in college and in the NBA. I hope the order is reversed soon, because America that I know is a land of opportunities and inclusion. I am praying for all those affected by it.’’
Several other athletes have made similar statements in the past week, including Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng, who is Jok’s second cousin.
Predictably, Jok’s statement prompted a certain amount of backlash from faceless, mindless pundits on Twitter. Their general message, not stated in very tactful terms, was that he should stick to basketball and not concern himself with such things.
That can’t be an easy thing to do under the circumstances.
Jok’s family came to the U.S. after his father, Dut Jok, a general in the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, was killed during the civil war surrounding South Sudan’s quest for independence from Sudan. Jok still has large numbers of friends and family members back in that part of the world.
His mother, Amelia Bol Ring, has returned to South Sudan and is a member of the country’s National Legislative Assembly.
South Sudan is not one of the countries impacted by Trump’s travel ban, but it’s understandable that it is something that weighs on Jok’s mind.
It’s also understandable and thoroughly appropriate that he should express his opinion about it.
“I was proud of him,'' Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said Friday when asked about Jok's gesture. "I thought he was incredibly eloquent in his remarks. Thoughtful, caring. I'm not surprised, that's who he is. Nobody in this room knows what it's like to be a refugee. He does. Can't imagine being six years old, being a refugee in Uganda. I applaud him for speaking up. I applaud him for how he spoke up.’’