Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had a few pointed comments about racism and law enforcement in an Interview with Bleacher Report prior to the November 3 release of the HBO documentary/biography Minority of One revolving around the former NBA superstar.
Abdul-Jabbar references the murder of Emmett Till in 1955 as a watershed moment for his journey into political activism, segueing into his meeting years later with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964. He covered the Harlem Riots in 1964 as a correspondent for a weekly newspaper.
Asked about the efforts by LeBron James vis-à-vis gun control and NBA players offering their opinions on the Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner cases, Abdul-Jabbar asserted that the players’ actions mirrored the issues of 1964, stating: “I appreciate the consciousness aspect of it, because these are young men that are concerned about what’s happening in our country, and I really I don’t see any difference between what they’re doing and their connection with the Civil Rights Movement, because it’s an extension of that same movement.”
Abdul-Jabbar added, “Police officers have incredibly difficult jobs and we need them. They are the blue line between order and chaos, so we have to respect them and try to make their jobs doable, but at the same time, they have to respect the people they are out there to protect and serve. It’s a two-way street, and I think they are always conscious of that. You know, police officers sometimes get a little bit arrogant with their power and look down on the people they’re supposed to be protecting and serving.”
In December 2014, Abdul-Jabbar wrote an essay for Time magazine in which he stated, “Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is.” Yet later in the same essay, he wrote of the New York Patrolman’s Benevolent Association creating a petition asking that mayor Bill de Blasio to refrain from attending the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty.
Abdul-Jabbar quoted former New York Governor George Pataki’s tweet, “Sickened by these barbaric acts, which sadly are a predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder and #mayordeblasio. #NYPD,” then continued, “This phony and logically baffling indignation is similar to that expressed by the St. Louis County Police Association when it demanded an apology from the NFL when several Rams players entered the field with their hands held high in the iconic Michael Brown gesture of surrender. Or when LeBron James and W.R. Allen wore his ‘I Can’t Breathe’ shirts echoing Eric Garner’s final plea before dying. Such outrage by police unions and politicians implies that there is no problem, which is the erroneous perception that the protestors are trying to change.”
He later added, “Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is.”