Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra, a Filipino-American, expressed his sadness over the rise of violence against the Asian-American community, highlighted by the murder of six Asian women in a shooting in Atlanta.
Spoelstra, who traces his roots to San Pablo, Laguna through his mother, spoke up ahead of the Heat's game against the Indiana Pacers on Friday (Saturday in Manila).
The Heat had already released a statement, calling the attacks "reprehensible and extremely upsetting to us."
"I'm glad the organization made a statement about these acts of hatred and violence against the Asian community," said Spoelstra, who has been the Heat's head coach since 2008.
"Look, I'm Asian-American, I'm proud to be Asian-American," he added. "Seeing what's happening with another outright form of racism and hatred, (it's) really sickening. It breaks my heart. It's despicable."
"I think more people have to be made aware of this," Spoelstra also said. "It just shows you where we are, that there is hatred, abundantly, still out there, and people feel empowered to attack the Asian community."
"I just pray in my heart that this can stop."
Anti-Asian sentiment and violence against the Asian-American community has grown in the past year. Community leaders have said that Asian-Americans are being blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, with former United States president Donald Trump calling the coronavirus the "China virus."
Several athletes, including Jeremy Lin and Filipino-American guard Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz have spoken out against the violence.
In Atlanta, where the shooter identified as Robert Aaron Long killed at least eight people, demonstrators gathered outside the Georgia State Capitol in support of the Asian-American community. Georgia Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff led the demonstrators in a moment of silence for the victims. -- With a report from Reuters.