Kobe Bryant was criticized last week for telling The New Yorker magazine that he didn't feel compelled
to adopt popular stances on social issues, such as the Trayvon Martin slaying, for the sake of racial solidarity with fellow black athletes.
"Kobe wants to be respected as an athlete that doesn't have to take a position on every issue that comes along, especially and including issues where it involves a controversy that's generating a lot of heat and discussion in the African-American community," David Swerdlick, contributing editor for The Root, told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
"I agree with him," Swerdlick said, "but where I'm critical of Kobe is that he seems to be criticizing LeBron James and members of the Miami Heat and other black celebrities because they opted to get involved in the issue and to make a statement in the issue," Swerdlick said Monday.
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The fallacy of Bryant's statement is that it assumes other athletes — including the Heat stars who posed for a photo wearing hooded sweatshirts in support of Martin and his family — take the stances they do solely on the basis of racial affiliation, not because they have educated themselves on the circumstances surrounding an issue, Swerdlick told Malzberg, a position he also took in a column he wrote
for The Root on Thursday.
"Kobe has essentially staked out a position on his side, and that's fine. But he has implied that LeBron James and others had jumped on a bandwagon, in this case, I just don’t think that's the right way to characterize it. I don't think it's a bandwagon if LeBron James, the Miami Heat, other people, myself included, think that there was an injustice done in the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman case," Swerdlick told Malzberg.
"If Kobe wants to be respected for staying out of the fray, that's fine. He's got to respect other people for wanting to get into the fray and make a statement."
Part of what made Bryant's statement so inflammatory is the topic. Nine months after Zimmerman was acquitted in the fatal shooting of Martin, an unarmed black teenager, the verdict remains controversial.
"I don't think that the trial brought justice in this case because I do lay the blame for what happened on George Zimmerman," Swerdlick said. "That's what I view, that's what I know."
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