Two things were certain on Thursday. The NBA would restart its season and players would kneel in protest during the playing of the National Anthem. One of those players was Lebron James.
So how did King James feel about the universal protests that marked the opening day of play? “I hope we made Kaep proud,” he said.
“Kaep” being the activist/former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, of course, who on September 1, 2016 first knelt in protest during the anthem. The rest is history, as they say.
The Los Angeles Lakers tweeted an image of Lebron & Co. wearing “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts prior to the start of their game against the crosstown-rival Clippers. “United for a greater cause,” the tweet reads.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) July 31, 2020
After the game, which the Lakers won, James spoke to reporters about what the night meant to him — which was pretty much all Kaepernick.
“I hope we made Kaep proud. I hope we continue to make Kaep proud every single day. I hope I make him proud with how I live my life, not only on the basketball floor but off the floor. I’ve been one to always speak out about things that I feel like is [sic] unjust.
If I’m educated on things, I always go about it that way. So Kaep was someone who stood up when times weren’t comfortable, and people didn’t understand or refused to listen to what he was saying.”
James continued to rave about Kaepenick, who hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL since the end of the 2016 season, saying, in part:
“You go back and look at any of his postgame interviews when he talked about why he was kneeling, it had absolutely nothing to do about the flag, had absolutely nothing to do about the soldiers, the men and women that keep our land free.
(Of course it was about the flag, but we’ll get to that in a minute.)
People never listened. They refused to listen. And I did. And a lot of my people in the Black community did listen. And we just thank him for sacrificing everything that he did to put us in a [situation where] today, even years later, to be able to have that moment like we did tonight.”
“Educated on things,” or not, James could not have been more wrong about Kaepernick and the flag. During a 2016 interview with NFL Media, “Kaep” said his protest was exactly about America and the flag.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Nearly four years later, Kaepernick is still as bitter as ever. On the Fourth of July, this year, he tweeted:
“Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all.”
Black ppl have been dehumanized, brutalized, criminalized + terrorized by America for centuries, & are expected to join your commemoration of “independence”, while you enslaved our ancestors. We reject your celebration of white supremacy & look forward to liberation for all. ✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/YCD2SYlgv4
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) July 4, 2020
“Your” commemoration? “Your” celebration? Are you “educated” on that, Lebron? Do you view America as “your” — white people, presumably — country, or is America your country, as well?
The degree to which the entire NBA has prostrated itself before the Black Lives Matter movement at the faux alter of so-called “systemic racism” in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death has been equalled in professional sports only by the NFL.
As I wrote in early July, as part of an agreement between the NBA and NBPA — National Basketball Players Association — players were given the option to replace their name on their jersey with one of 29 approved “social justice” statements during the first four games of the season restart in Orlando. Let’s revisit those statements, shall we?
Black Lives Matter
Say Her Name
Say Their Names
I Can’t Breathe
Power to the People
Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
Listen to Us
I Am A Man
How Many More
The league also agreed to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the sidelines of the courts — presumably to make sure fans didn’t miss the message.
The NBA is planning to paint “Black Lives Matter” on the court inside both sidelines in all three arenas it will use at the Walt Disney World Resort, league sources told @ramonashelburne and @ZachLowe_NBA. https://t.co/UVKiCMHnEy
— ESPN (@espn) June 29, 2020
As for Kaepernick’s former benefactor, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has fallen all over the former quarterback and Black Lives Matter in the wake of Floyd’s death, as much as anyone. As I wrote in June, Goodell couldn’t seem to apologize to Kaepernick enough.
It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country.
First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and all the families who have endured police brutality.
We the National Football league condemn racism and the systematic [sic] oppression of black people.
We the National Football League admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier, and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest.
We the National Football League believe black lives matter.
It gets worse:
Incidentally, prior to the NBA season restart, James said he would not wear a “social justice “statement on the back of his jersey. Not because he doesn’t agree with the message, but because he didn’t have a say in determining the approved statements.
“It was no disrespect to the list that was handed down to all the players. I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It’s just something that didn’t seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal.
I would have loved to have a say-so on what would have went on the back of my jersey. I had a couple of things in mind, but I wasn’t part of that process, which is OK. […]
Everything that I do has a purpose, has a meaning. I don’t need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I’m about and what I’m here to do.”
One wonders what message James would have liked to see included on the list. Whatever it is, no doubt it would have made “Kaep” proud.