Kobe Bryant condemned the reflexive racial response to the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case. Then his critics condemned him as “cornball,” “clueless,” and a “jerk.” TheBlackMan.com offered that the Los Angeles Laker remained ignorant about the controversial case because “Kobe Bryant is busy dribbling basketballs for white people.”
One powerful voice in sports journalism has stood by Bryant’s comments–even as Bryant partially walked them back.
“Kobe Bryant basically has the attitude that justice should be equal, no matter what, in regards to race or gender,” Stephen A. Smith, who spoke to the injured basketball star earlier in the day, told Arsenio Hall. “And that was his position. All he was trying to say was that, “Excuse me. Let’s listen to the facts first. Let’s make sure we know everything before we jump out and judge accordingly. You can’t sit there and take somebody’s side just because they’re an African American. You can’t turn around and assume that people from other races are ever going to be fair to you if you’re not willing to exercise fairness yourself. Lay back listen to the facts and then accord justice where it should be served.’ I don’t have a problem with that. Me personally, I definitely think he was right on point with that.”
“Patience, I really agree with Kobe on the patience element,” Hall maintained. He invoked the case of Tawana Brawley, the Brooklyn teen who falsely accused six white men of rape in the late 1980s. “I personally got in trouble,” Hall confessed. “I went hook, line, and sinker on an opinion. I was irate.”
Smith stressed the golden rule as the best course. “Even though the system sometimes is unjust, it sometimes is unfair,” he told Hall. “It doesn’t accord us the license to be unfair as well. We have to make sure that if we’re shining a light on issues we’re just as fair-minded as we’re asking other people to be toward us. If we’re not willing to do that, then we don’t have a strong argument.”
Arsenio Hall noted that Bryant’s remarks, made to Ben McGrath of the New Yorker, have generated a massive amount of controversy. He cited criticism of Kobe Bryant by NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown and talking head Roland Martin. The host pointed out, “Black twitter went crazy.”
“When I give a damn,” the ESPN talker responded, “I’ll let you know.”