Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is no stranger to political activism — and he’s advocating for other athletes who are speaking out. 50 years ago, he boycotted the 1968 Summer Olympics in protest for civil rights and racial justice.
“The Olympics in 1968 occurred just a couple of months after Dr. King was assassinated. And at that time, I wasn’t feeling very patriotic,” he explained. “I felt that America really was not living up to what it was supposed to be.”
Abdul-Jabbar was a forebearer to the modern athlete activist — a role now played by LeBron James, Colin Kaepernick, and others. And like them, he faced criticism for speaking out.
“I got a lot of pushback about being an activist, cause someone said recently to LeBron James that he should ‘shut up and dribble,’” he said. “And that was a ridiculous statement, and the same mentality and attitude was directed at me when I had things to say.”
One place where athletes have repeatedly made their voices heard is the NFL, where players are protesting during the national anthem.
“Colin Kaepernick and the people who were inspired by him wanted to draw attention to the fact that Black Americans get killed by police officers randomly, and for no good reason, and way too often. This is a reality,” he stated. “And the fact that people want to say that he’s disrespecting the flag is trying to change the subject.”