Kobe Bryant has his own opinion. Some people don’t like it–the opinion and the fact that it’s his own.
The injured Los Angeles Laker told the New Yorker‘s Ben McGrath that the Miami Heat collectively taking Trayvon Martin’s side in the George Zimmerman case represented a reflexive racial reaction. The team posed for a provocative picture in hoodies in homage to the slain Florida teenager two years ago.
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” Bryant told the magazine. “That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we’ve progressed as a society? Well… then don’t jump to somebody’s defense just because they’re African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.
Bryant, who grew up in Italy before playing high school basketball outside of Philadelphia, has endured a torrent of online abuse stemming from his refusal to take up the cause of seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, a basketball fan killed on his way back to watch Kobe Bryant play in the 2012 NBA all-star game.
Jim Brown tells the New Yorker, “[Kobe] is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country.” Jamilah King at Colorlines lambasted Bryant for this “stingy insistence on clinging to a ‘post-racial’ identity, this very old, conservative notion that black people should not be treated differently in this country–despite all of the evidence, like Martin’s death, that they are.” A piece at The Urban Daily (ellipses in original) declared, “Over the span of Kobe Bryant’s career….we’ve seen him do and say some very smug, cavalier and even cornball things at times but the comments that he made regarding the Miami Heat’s support after Trayvon Martin was killed…by far takes the cake!” The piece calls Bryant a “jerk” and in strange, non sequitur fashion–sorry for being “smug” and a “jerk”–dubs his opinion “beyond reproach.”
The message? Don’t think. We’ll do that for you. Shut up and play basketball. Unless you’re the Miami Heat, of course, and wear your groupthink over your brain. Then you can offer our, er, your opinion.