DENVER — The best voice in Colorado is one we need right now.
His name is Kyle Speller. His voice and message are the truth. You know him as the booming baritone that turns Pepsi Center into a party.
"Give it up for your super mascot, R-R-R-Rocky!”
“Jamal Murray, for 1...! 2...!”
As the first black public address announcer in Colorado pro sports, his night gig earns him high-fives all over the city. But it's Speller’s full-time job as the Nuggets team chaplain that makes his message more important than ever.
At a time when partisanship prevents productivity, here's a man who unifies the Nuggets and their opponents — athletes who often come from different faiths — by leading them in prayer and counsel before every tipoff at Pepsi Center. Please, good sir. Tell us what that voice has to say as Colorado teeters into Week 2 of the George Floyd protests and riots.
“We need prayer more than anything else. But now it’s even deeper than that. We need God’s intervention. We need his spirit,” Speller says.
It’s a cute notion to suggest nothing unifies Americans like sports. But I’ve seen Broncos fans box Raiders fans on Mondays, Nuggets fans toss beers on Lakers supporters on Fridays.
What I've never seen is a shoving match inside a house of worship on Sundays.
Times like these require detailed actions. What, specifically, is Speller praying for?
“Two prayers are on my heart. One, police reform. The individual that did this particular crime had 18 complaints (against him) or whatever it was. If you or me had 18 complaints, we’d be gone," Speller says.
"My second prayer right now is about each and every individual walking through this: How can I influence this in a positive way? I appreciate all the statements from celebrities, from teams, from individuals. But the word of God says, 'Faith without works is dead.’ Without your action, your words are meaningless."
I don't pray with famous leaders like Chris Paul or Paul Millsap before NBA games. But The Gazette gave me a column so here is my own: I pray Colorado finds leaders with their priorities in order. Last weekend in a city that's preached the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic for months, you could join thousands of strangers to chant "Good cops are dead cops!” at the state Capitol, but you were prohibited by law from praying inside a church, synagogue or mosque.
Ask the business owners who have seen their life's work destroyed and the protesters bruised from rubber bullets how that's working out.
It's not the looters and vandals in Denver and other American cities begging for police reform. You think criminals want better cops? No, it’s real-deal leaders like Speller, who demands his 21-year-old daughter and 18-year-old twin boys swing by for a chat before they exit the house.
Before you denounce these words as partisan one way or another, consider Speller’s daily routine as a black father of three. He’s not lying about this, friends. He's really not.
“They have to come into my room where I am and see me. There is no exception. Then I cover my kids by the blood of Jesus,” Speller says, explaining why that is necessary. “I pray over our cars. I pray over our house. I give them the speech: 'Remember, if you get pulled over, this is what you do.' I know they are annoyed by the speech. But all I know is to drill it in them. Preferably they never need it."
Speller was a hoops star at Denver Regis, Eastern Wyoming and Adams State. He credits his Christian faith for placing him in a position of influence with bright minds and the guts to spread the good word. That includes believers like future Nuggets star Michael Porter Jr., who showed his true colors by tweeting a prayer request for Floyd — and for his murderer, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Porter, the son of longtime Christian missionaries, faced a firestorm of blow-back on social media.
“I was so proud of Michael for that,” Speller says.
“He’s a man of God. Of course he would be persecuted. We’re supposed to be persecuted for the cause of Christ,” he says. “That brother, in that moment, laid a foundation for a platform. The words that he spoke were words of love.”
Speller jokes his 6-foot-6 body comes with a "heavy" size-16 sneaker.
"I might get pulled over for speeding from time to time,” he says.
Speller says each police stop has ended the same way: "I say, 'I'm responsible. I did it.' Then I ask if I can pray for them. Maybe that softens the officer's heart during an encounter later that day."
An officer has yet to decline his offer.
“When you speak of unjust brutality there is no greater example than our Lord and Savior. Organs exposed, flesh ripped open. The Roman standard was 32 lashes. But there’s no actual account if they ever stopped,” he says. “I think about that every day. If anyone knows brutality, injustice, it’s Jesus Christ. He's who can help us."
The Nuggets chaplain, who is the best of us, freely admits he doesn’t have all the answers.
“I am, by no means, a perfect man,” he says.
But he knows where we must look to find them.