Six-time NBA Most Valuable player and the greatest scorer in the history of the game, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, cited Ecclesiastes when contemplating the meaning of two executed police officers in New York City.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose,” Kareem wrote in an article on race in Time magazine. For the seven-foot basketball legend now is the time to mourn for the slain officers, but also to consider how America can eliminate institutional racism, which he believes is inherent in police departments across the nation.
The UCLA and Lakers icon is neither unaccustomed to voicing his political opinions nor immune from the horrors unleashed by violence. In 1973, National of Islam votaries murdered seven members of a rival Muslim sect, including five children, at the basketball star’s Washington, D.C., home. And Kareem was an outspoken opponent to the USA’s involvement in the Vietnam war while he attended UCLA. There he led perhaps the greatest college basketball team of all time to three national championships.
When talking about cops Kareem plays on his home court: both his father and his grandfather were police officers. Fully understanding the peril surrounding officers on a daily basis, he writes, “We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.”
That being said, Kareem insists that the murder of officers Ramos and Liu in their patrol car on Saturday by an assassin “are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown.”
Abdul-Jabbar writes-off the Instagram messages by the killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, as simply the rants of an insane person. Brinsley messaged “I’m putting wings on pigs today. They take 1 of ours … let’s take 2 of theirs.” He included in his message three twitter hashtags: ShootThePolice, RIPErivGarner (sic) and RIPMikeBrown. The cop-killer concluded by writing, “This may be my final post … I’m putting pigs in a blanket.”
Kareem maintains, “Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day.” He argues that the protests were no more responsible for Brinsley’s slayings than, The Catcher in the Rye was for John Lennon’s murder or the movie Taxi Driver was for John Hinckley’s attempt to kill President Reagan.
“Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protesters,” Kareem writes.
Those that compare violent protesters with “legitimate protesters,” Kareem argues, try to “misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests…. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.”
What are the legitimate claims? According to the Hall of Famer, the protests “raise awareness of double standards, lack of adequate police candidate screening, and insufficient training that have resulted in unnecessary killings. Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is.”