The following yr Abdul-Jabbar shunned the Summer season Olympics to protest American prejudice. “America is just not my house,” he stated in a televised interview. “I simply stay right here.”

In these days, Harry Edwards, now a College of California, Berkeley, sociology professor emeritus, led a brand new wave of Black athletes in protests in opposition to American racism. Abdul-Jabbar was a significant a part of that push. He additionally transformed to Islam to embrace his Black African heritage, and adjusted his identify from Lew Alcindor to Kareem (beneficiant) Abdul (servant of Allah) Jabbar (highly effective).

“It’s important to perceive the context,” Edwards informed me lately. “We’re nonetheless arguing over whether or not Black lives matter. Properly, again then, Black lives completely didn’t matter. In that point, whenever you stated ‘America,’ that was code for ‘white people.’ So, how do these people determine with a Black athlete who says I’m a Muslim, I imagine in Allah, that’s what I give my allegiance to? They didn’t, they usually let him know.”

Edwards added: “What Kareem did was seen as a betrayal of the American excellent. He risked his life.”

Black athletes nonetheless face backlash for standing as much as racism, however their voices are stronger, and their sway is mightier now due to Black legends like Ali, Robinson, Russell and Abdul-Jabbar.

You noticed their imprint when James wore a T-shirt that stated “I Can’t Breathe” for Eric Garner, or a hoodie for Trayvon Martin, or when he joined an N.B.A. work stoppage for Jacob Blake. When right-wing pundits assault James and his friends for protesting, keep in mind that Abdul-Jabbar has been within the sizzling seat, too.

The message right here isn’t “Been there, performed that, don’t want to listen to it anymore.” No, that’s not it in any respect.

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