Do today’s black athletes fall short on being socially responsible and aware? Pro football Hall of Famer Jim Brown‘s recent remarks about basketball star Kobe Bryant have sparked a debate around that question.
While on the Arsenio Hall Show last week, Brown said that if he had to call together another summit of black athletes, like the one he called in 1967 to respond to support Muhammad Ali’s refusal to serve in the Vietnam War, Bryant would not be invited.
“He is somewhat confused about culture because he was brought up in another country,” said Brown, “so it doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.” He also said that Bryant, who recently returned to basketball after an injury, “threw Shaq under the bus.”
Take a look at Jim Brown’s comments below:
Bryant responded, by saying, “No matter where you come from, whether you come from Italy, whether you come from Inglewood, whether you come from London,….Ultimately the conversation is that it doesn’t matter what color skin you are to begin with.” While inviting a larger discussion about how foster progress, Bryant continued, “He and I, there’s no reason for us to try to have a conversation. We’re on opposite sides of the spectrum. I’m an old dog, but he’s a much older dog and a lot more set in his ways than I am.”
It’s not the first time that black sports legends have suggested members of the current generation of players are less politically aware than those who preceded them. In 2012, NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar noted, “I don’t think it’s the same now. Being political is not seen as the wise thing to do.”
But former NBA player Etan Thomas says that kind of comparison isn’t fair. “We’re painting the entire illustrious roster of current black athletes in one way, one broad brush of ridicule,” said Thomas, speaking on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin. “There’s exceptions. Everybody back in the ’60s, back in the day, was not like Jim Brown and Bill Russell and John Carlos.”
Thomas defended younger players with a recent example by the Miami Heat players. “When LeBron and D-Wade and all of them stood up for Trayvon Martin in that iconic [hoodie] picture because … you are the main attraction in Florida, you are the defending champions. And for you to not only take the picture, which is iconic, but for you to go around and make statements of why you took the picture of how it personally affected you — that brought an awareness, especially to a younger generation.”
Thomas also noted how selective the media’s attention can be. “If an athlete will do something negative, that will be on the top of SportsCenter,” he noted “That will be on the top of ESPN immediately. Let them do something positive, you don’t really see that.”
However, “New York Times” writer William C. Rhoden, who spoke on NewsOne Now separately, said there needs to be a more coordination by black athletes around important issues. “The guys are doing bits and pieces, things here and there, but there is no concerted, universally-accepted protest,” he remarked.