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The Under-Socialized, Inner-Directed, 7-Foot Rebel against the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Fashion Rebellion

The Under-Socialized, Inner-Directed, 7-Foot Rebel against the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Fashion Rebellion

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To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men — that is genius.              –Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Kobe Bryant encouraged his teammates through example to wear “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts in tribute to slain “loosie” cigarette salesman Eric Garner. The entire team followed save for one inner-directed, under-socialized, seven-foot nonconformist. 

Robert Sacre, a backup center raised in Canada, rebelled against the fashion rebellion by opting for his normal workout gear. But Jeremy Lin, Carlos Boozer, and nearly a dozen other players uniformly stayed out of uniform in the black shirts, which appeared in front of the lockers of every Laker prior to their game against Sacramento Tuesday night.

The man’s father played in the NFL. He plays in the NBA. One senses that his “problem,” surely a solution for most, involves not doing what others expect of him. 

“It’s important that we have our opinions,” Bryant said after the game. “It’s important that we stand up for what we believe in and we all don’t have to agree with it, and it’s completely fine. That’s what makes this a beautiful country.”

Garner lost his life after an encounter with multiple New York City police officers on Staten Island. The husband and father of six expressed frustration with constant harassment from the police prior to a violent takedown meted out by multiple cops. The altercation included a choke hold applied by an officer, which prefaced repeated “I can’t breathe” pleas by Garner. A grand jury subsequently declined to charge the policeman. The NYPD increasingly has cracked down on freelance cigarette salesmen to recoup lost tax revenue. The city levies a $1.35 tax per pack atop the $4.60 that the state–tops among all fifty–imposes on smokers.

“I think it would be a serious disservice to limit this to a race issue,” Bryant concludes. “It’s a justice issue.”

The shirts proved no distraction to the team. The Lakers won 98-95 to improve to 6-16.


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