Longtime social justice activist and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said that in order to see change in America, all members of society must participate.
“People are starting to understand what the situation is and what it has been for 400 years, for black Americans especially,” he told CNN today, adding that “without the support of all Americans, nothing’s going to happen.”
Abdul-Jabbar, a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and a six-time NBA champion, also reflected upon the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent state of unrest in America.
“The police probably feel like they are under fire. Maybe they are responding emotionally to what other people have had to deal with for a long time,” said Abdul-Jabbar, referencing a slew of recent ugly incidents — from Atlanta to Buffalo — involving law enforcement. “The fact that some police don’t respect everybody’s rights is what the problem is.”
Some background: More than 30 years removed from his final NBA season, Abdul-Jabbar remains the league’s all-time leader in points scored.
Since his retirement, he’s remained active socially and in 2016, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama. Abdul-Jabbar says people of color have long had to deal with racial bias and injustice at the hands of police, often times with deadly consequences.
“Anytime a cop has a bad day, they might take it out on us. And that is hard to deal with. And you have to live your life trying not to cross any lines with people who can be very, very touchy,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer during his visit to “The Situation Room.”
“All of a sudden your race is an issue. It’s a bewildering thing to deal with, it’s hard to negotiate,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
On Friday, President Trump condemned the kneeling of sports figures during the playing of the national anthem. Abdul-Jabbar suspects Trump missed the meaning of the message.
“The president has his agenda and it has nothing to do with reality. He is referring to Colin Kaepernick taking a knee because he was dealing with the very issue that ended up taking George Floyd’s life,” he said, adding “that’s what Colin Kaepernick was about, that’s why he took a knee.”