Kobe Bryant is trying to sell us a dream, but I’m not buying it.
In a recent piece as part of The Undefeated’s “Dear Black Athlete” special, Bryant sat down with Jemele Hill for an in-depth interview about a variety of topics. One of them was Bryant’s thoughts on Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem, and why he claims he would kneel if he were still playing.
Hill: “Given the NBA’s stance on standing for the national anthem, and seeing the landscape in sports, if you were still playing would that have been something you would have participated in?”
Bryant: “I would have participated in it for sure. Yeah. I’m sure I would have gotten some flak for it, but that’s fine. I think Colin’s (Kaepernick) message was a very simple one. This police brutality needs to stop. We need to take a look at that.”
Hill: “What kind of conversations, I guess, could you have imagined taking place in the locker room as that was going on?”
Bryant: “Well, I mean from my experience in the locker room it doesn’t seem like any of the players I played with certainly [would] have had issue with that. I think we understand that this a free country. I think we have the right for peaceful protest. We have the right to, and by the way, I mean from my point of view that’s what the flag represents as well. The ability to speak and ability to voice your opinion. Everybody is entitled to that. So, everybody getting up in arms about it, they’re certainly in their right to do that. As we’re certainly in our right to protest. Peacefully, at that.”
There’s a lot to unpack in what Bryant said. And while it sounds nice that he thinks he would be the first player in the NBA to take a knee, I don’t believe him.
Bryant comes off as misguided.
It’s easy to say what you would do from the comforts of retirement, and Bryant walked away from the NBA months before Kaepernick took a knee.
Maybe he should have something more along the lines of, “I’d like to think that I had that sort of courage, but it would be unfair of me to say that I would from my living room.”
That’s an answer that doesn’t belittle the actions of the men and women who took a knee across the sports world who had to deal with the ire of angry fans, and death threats from the crazy ones, not to mention being personally attacked by the President of the United States. That answer would also show us that Bryant understands that this decision is one that’s a lot easier said than done.
In the past, Bryant publicly defended Kaepernick and others who have taken a knee, and even criticized Donald Trump last year after he referred to them as “sons of bitches.”
“A #POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger. Whose words inspire dissension and hatred can’t possibly ‘Make America Great Again,'” Bryant wrote on Twitter.
He’s also donated money to Kaepernick’s million-dollar “10-for-10 initiative.” But cutting a check doesn’t mean you’d be the first person to break a rule in the NBA. Last September, the league sent out a memo reminding teams of its policy that requires players and coaches to stand during the national anthem.
There has yet to be a player to challenge the rule.
But, I’m supposed to believe that Bryant would?
It’s not adding up.
In the piece with Hill, Bryant said, “it doesn’t seem like any of the players I played with certainly [WOULD]have had issue with that.”
Well, he’s wrong. I guess Bryant forget he played with Karl Malone and Shaquille O’Neal.
Back in 2015, Malone said that he didn’t think race played a part in what happened in Ferguson and that he believes that “everyone was at fault.”
“Let me tell you something, our first responders have a hell of a job to do. They have families as well,” Malone said to Marc Lamont Hill on an episode of HuffPost Live.
“But I think this right here: our problem now is that we do so much talking and beating things to death. Let’s take ownership in ourself. What can we do? What can we do as a society, what can we do as African Americans? And stop waiting on someone to come in and march for us. Be your person and own up to what you need to do and handle your business.”
And in 2016, Shaq took exception to Kaepernick’s peaceful protest, which means that he would have taken exception with Bryant’s, as well.
“I don’t know Colin, but to each his own. I don’t really have a say on it, but I would never do that,” O’Neal said on an episode of “Fox & Friends.” “My father was a military man, and he protected this country. Uncles are in law enforcement, they go out and work hard every day. Just, you know — other ways to get your point across.”
“My question is: What happened last year? How come you didn’t decide to do this last year, or the year before that, or the year before that. My thing is, you know, you have to enter onto the scene one way. People like Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell, they were one way their whole career.”
“You can’t show us something, and then go to another, just because of certain issues.”
And Shaq, who’s a reserve police officer in South Florida, says he plans to run for Sheriff of Henry County, Ga. in 2020. He just might take issue with a teammate kneeling during the anthem to protest police brutality.
Seems like Bryant doesn’t have as good of a grasp on his former teammates as he thinks he does.
Mike Tyson famously once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
I think that logic applies to Bryant.
In his mind, I think he truly believes that if he were still playing, he’d take a knee. He’s a black man in America, making it impossible for him to be ignorant to what African-Americans go through on a daily basis in this country.
But once Bryant stepped on the court, and the lights dimmed, and an artist stepped to the microphone to sing the anthem, I don’t think Bryant’s knees would bend an inch.
Because if Bryant was really about that life, he’d be doing way more than ESPN interviews to make an actual impact on social injustices.