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Kobe Bryant Takes Heat for Refusing to Blindly Support Trayvon Martin

Image: Kobe Bryant Takes Heat for Refusing to Blindly Support Trayvon Martin

By Joe Battaglia   |   Friday, 28 Mar 2014 04:15 PM

Basketball star Kobe Bryant is at the center of a social media firestorm after suggesting in a magazine article that the widespread support for Trayvon Martin was premature and that without facts he refused to show support for the slain teen solely because he's African American.

In an interview with Ben McGrath in the March 31 issue of The New Yorker,  the 35-year-old Los Angeles Lakers guard discussed an array of topics ranging from his unusual upbringing to the winding down of his basketball career.

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When Bryant was six, he moved with his family to Italy so that his father Joe "Jellybean" Bryant could pursue a professional basketball career in the European leagues. When the family returned to suburban Philadelphia some years later, Bryant struggled to re-assimilate as an Italian-speaking black teenager.

In the article, Bryant said the social adjustment was made difficult by his "growing up a little differently," combined with "blacks having their own way of talking, and I really had to learn two languages in order to fit in. Kids are cruel. It's always been hard."

Bryant added that as an adult African-American athlete, there's "always a struggle to step outside" of "the box people try to put you in."

When asked by McGrath to expound on that in relation to the Miami Heat's show of solidarity with Martin in the viral photo tweeted by LeBron James in March, 2012, Bryant ruffled liberal feathers.

"I won’t react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm an African-American," Bryant said. "That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, if we've progressed as a society then don’t jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won’t assert myself.”

At no point has Bryant voiced support for George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman who claimed self-defense in the February 2012 confrontation with Martin in a gated community where he was visiting his father and father's fiancee. In July 2013, Zimmerman was found not guilty in the shooting death of Martin, following a racially-charged trial.

Two days after the verdict, Bryant posted this to his Instagram account:

Nevertheless, Bryant has incurred wrath from the left both in print and on Twitter following his New Yorker comments, Mediaite reports.

A piece at The Urban Daily slammed Bryant for being a "jerk," adding, "Over the span of Kobe Bryant‘s career… we’ve seen him do and say some very smug, cavalier and even cornball things at times but the comments that he made regarding the Miami Heat’s support after Trayvon Martin was killed… by far takes the cake!"

The term "cornball" is often used to disparage blacks for "acting white."

Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., angrily called for a boycott of Bryant.

"African American youth should no longer buy Bryant’s jerseys or shoes and should boycott all products he endorses," Ali said in a statement to Fox News. 

"Bryant doesn’t identify with the struggle that our African-American youth face nationally. So why should we continue to support Bryant who has never truly identified with the African American experience."

Roland Martin, host and managing editor of NewsOne Now, was also critical of Bryant on Twitter:

Bryant called in to Martin's show on Thursday to further discuss his comments and took to Twitter to defend himself:

Bryant furthered his response to critics on Instagram Thursday, posting:

Jeff Crouere, host of the Louisiana-based public television program "Ringside Politics," defended Bryant, saying he regrets that as a man of color, Bryant has faced "a torrent of criticism from civil rights activists and other guardians of racial animosity" for daring to "possess an independent thought or take a contrarian position."

"Bryant is not confused; he just wants to judge situations on the basis of the facts, not race," Crouere wrote on Bayoubuzz.com on Friday. "If more people adopted such an attitude possibly race relations would not be in such a precarious state today."

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