Sky’s James Wade on gun violence: ‘The way society is, you’re safe nowhere’

As the WNBA’s All-Star Weekend in Chicago neared, the general manager and coach had his mind on the Highland Park Fourth of July mass shooting.

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WNBA Finals - Game Two

Sky coach James Wade during the 2021 WNBA Finals.

Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As the WNBA’s All-Star Weekend neared, Sky coach/general manager James Wade had his mind on the Highland Park Fourth of July mass shooting that killed seven parade-goers and wounded dozens of others.

Wade, 46, expressed frustration and sadness.

“I just think it’s a shame that we’re in a situation where politics outweigh the common sense and the love for your fellow human being,” he said. “I think it’s just tough. We’re in a society that’s not willing to sacrifice for the greater good of society, even if it means saving people. And that’s a pretty sad place to be, a pretty sad place.”

Close to three-quarters of mass shootings in developed countries since the turn of the century have taken place in the United States, according to a recent study in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice. During Wade’s professional playing career in France, Russia, Spain and the Czech Republic from 2001 to 2013, the mass shootings he read about almost always were back home.

But Wade witnessed gun violence growing up in Memphis, and some invisible wounds remain.

“As a young man, a young, adolescent kid, I’ve seen it in the streets; I’ve seen people dead in front of me,” he said. “It’s something that sticks with you. It never goes away from you. You just have to learn how to compartmentalize it and move on and understand that this is not what you want your life to be about.”

The Highland Park shooting was a few miles from the Sky’s practice facility in Deerfield and not much farther from Wade’s home in Wilmette. According to Wade, the families of an assistant coach and an operations staffer were at the parade.

“My main thing is I want my family to be safe,” Wade said, “even the safety that goes beyond my own. Sometimes decisions I make as far as where to live, it’s a cause and effect, and that’s the decision I have to weigh. Everything around us is about how safe my family is.”

Wade isn’t alone in feeling his sense of safety shaken.

“I’ve lived a life where I’ve seen things, especially pertaining to gun violence,” he said. “You grow up in a situation seeing these things as a child, it scars you, but you understand this is the way society is. You’re safe nowhere.”

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