Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on Being a ‘Black Cop’s Kid,’ Muhammad Ali and Activism

In Summary

The NBA Hall of Famer recently went on NPR to talk about his new essay called “Black Cop’s Kid.”

NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar joined Audie Cornish on NPR last week to talk about his new essay called “Black Cop’s Kid” and how Black activism has changed in sports in comparison to the 1960s. 

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In his essay, Abdul-Jabbar talks about growing up with a father who was a Black police officer during the Civil Rights era.  

“It’s nice to be assumed to be innocent. And, you know, most white Americans can count on that,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Most Black Americans have to deal with the opposite – to be under suspicion just because of the color of your skin. And this is something that seems to happen quickly and automatically when there’s a problem.”  

The former Los Angeles Laker is known as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. However, he was also known as an advocate for social equality. While at UCLA in 1967, he along with Muhammad Ali, Bill Russell and Jim Brown participated in the Cleveland Summit, which Brown organized, according to NPR. During the summit Ali said he was refusing to go to war in Vietnam

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“I was intrigued at being invited because I’d been a fan of Muhammad Ali since the 1960 Olympics. I always thought that he was the greatest. So, you know, having a chance to go to a meeting that was going to try to help him was something I wanted to do,” Abdul-Jabbar said. 

The six-time NBA champion hopes that people who read his essay understand there can be no peace without dealing with racism, according to NPR. 

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“We have to talk about this, about some very tough issues and incidents,” he said.” But we have to talk about them and enact legislation and circumstances that will make it possible for all Americans to feel that their rights and privileges are respected and defended.” 

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