Kobe Bryant spoke into the microphone about an issue after initially staying silent on it. Bryant distanced himself from the Miami Heat wearing a hoodie to symbolize Trayvon Martin being shot by George Zimmerman despite remaining unarmed while wearing a hoodie in his Florida neighborhood. Yet, Bryant connected himself by participating in a rally run by the Trayvon Martin Foundation at Crenshaw High School on the one-year anniversary of Zimmerman’s “not guilty” ruling.
“Telling that story is absolutely phenomenal because those are stories that need to be told,” Bryant said in the video above. “Players, such as myself, and others that have a platform, our responsibility is more than putting the ball in the basket, but helping them have a platform to tell their story.”
Bryant initially sparked criticism amid perception that did not want to tell that story. In an interview earlier this year with the New Yorker, Bryant dismissed in general terms about being vocal about African American issues, including Martin’s case.
“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American,” Bryant is quoted as saying in the New Yorker piece. “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, 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.”
Bryant’s comments immediately sparked criticism on social media for the apparent insincerity surrounding Martin’s case and the racial components that may have led toward becoming a wrongful death. The reaction also overshadowed the reality that Two days after Zimmerman was acquitted of murder charges, however, Bryant posted on his Instagram account disgust with the verdict by quoting civil rights activist Frederick Douglass.
“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails,” Douglass once wrote, “and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Yet, Bryant hardly fretted about the backlash he received. Instead he zeroed in on Martin’s parents, Sybrina and Tracy, whom personally met with the Lakers’ star at the rally.
“I stand here as a basketball player dealing with adversity with an Achilles injury and criticism of being too old can he come back and play. Those are all pressures that we as athletes deal with. Those are challenges that we deal with,” Bryant said. “When you look at those challenges in a vacuum, they feel like they are the most important and most significant things in the world that are going on when you look at them in isolation. However, when you look outside of when you look at However, when you step outside of that, and you look at Sybrina and Tracy and what they had to go through as a family, and what they’ve come out of, that’s true adversity. And that’s responding to true conflict and being true inspirations.”
And that includes Bryant himself, becoming more outspoken on a subject that once drew a more muted response.
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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org