Legendary coach Phil Jackson has some words of wisdom for National Basketball Association executives and athletes who want to insert their ‘Woke’ politics into the beloved game.
Leave if off the court.
Phil Jackson says the ‘BLM’ slogans the NBA promoted during the 2020 ‘bubble’ year turned him off from professional basketball for good, according to a report from TMZ.
Phil Jackson says the 'BLM' slogans that the NBA publicly embraced during the 2020 bubble year turned him off from professional basketball for good — comments which you can now hear for yourself in their full context. https://t.co/zzj072bEVV
— TMZ (@TMZ) April 22, 2023
In a new interview, the former NBA player and Hall-of-Fame coach said that he “doesn’t like basketball’s evolution & doesn’t watch anymore, thought the Bubble & political slogans on jerseys was ‘wanky’ and made fun of it with his grandchildren.” Listen below:
Phil Jackson says he doesn’t like basketball’s evolution & doesn’t watch anymore, thought the Bubble & political slogans on jerseys was “wanky” and made fun of it with his grandchildren
was listening to his new interview with Rick Rubin & thought it was interesting. pic.twitter.com/FVBpdnuCFj
— Clique Productions (@ImClique_) April 20, 2023
Phil Jackson said: “They did something that was kind of wanky, they did a bubble down in Orlando and all the teams that could qualify went down there and stayed down there.”
“And they had things on their back like, ‘Justice.’ They made a funny thing like, ‘Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity just knocked him down’,” he continued.
“So my grandkids thought that was pretty funny to play up those names,” he added. “So I couldn’t watch that.”
“It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game and they didn’t know it was turning other people off,” he went on.
“People want to see sports as non-political. Politics stays out of the game; it doesn’t need to be there.”
Further context on the 2020 ‘bubble’ year was provided by USA Today:
The NBA had “Black Lives Matter” on the courts in the bubble, allowed players to kneel during the national anthem and offered them the opportunity to choose a social justice message for their nameplate.
Jayson Tatum, Pascal Siakam, Russell Westbrook and Tyler Herro wore “Black Lives Matter” on their jerseys. Zion Williamson and Carmelo Anthony chose “Peace” and Damian Lillard chose “How Many More” to go along with his No. 0 to plead that no more names would become hashtags as victims of racially-charged violence.
Lebron James, superstar player and NBA champion, has become the face of the league’s “Woke” politics. In an interview in 2018, James took a shot at then President Donald Trump.
“The number one job in America … is someone who doesn’t understand the people, and really don’t give a f–k about the people,” James said in a video alongside fellow NBA All-Star Kevin Durant.
James famously caught flack from conservative Fox News host Laura Ingraham, who told him to ‘shut up and dribble.”
“It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball,” she said. “Keep the political comments to yourselves… Shut up and dribble.”
Ingraham added she was not interested in taking political advice from “someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball.” After the media uproar, she denied this was any kind of ‘racist’ dogwhistle.
James retorted that he won’t “shut up and dribble” because “I mean too much to society.”
LeBron James blows off Fox News host: “I will definitely not ‘shut up and dribble.’ I mean too much to society.” pic.twitter.com/qF3SqfO0ug
— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 17, 2018
James has been both active and vocal about his politics. He is the founder of the voting rights group, More Than A Vote, whose goal is to raise funds to help people in Florida with felony records to pay outstanding court debt so that they can vote (for Democrats) in elections.
During the height of the controversy surrounding the Golden State Warriors’ decision to skip the traditional visit to the White House as NBA champions, LeBron James made his disdain for President Donald Trump clear. Referring to Trump as a “bum,” James further fueled the already heated debate surrounding the Warriors’ stance and added another chapter to the ongoing saga between professional athletes and the Trump administration.
In October, 2016, James officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential election prior to her visit to his hometown in Akron, Ohio.
In September, 2017, James suggested that people who voted for President Trump “made a mistake” or were “uneducated” in casting their ballots, according to the NBA.
“At the end of the day, I don’t think a lot of people was educated,” he said. “And I think that’s one of the biggest problems that we have. When it becomes vote time, people are just not educated on either the individual or what’s going on in the state of the world right now. … I don’t think a lot of people are educated and they make choices and say things that are uneducated.”
James’ on-the-court activism goes back at least to 2014, when was spotted wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “I Can’t Breathe” in place of his jersey during a December 2014 Cavalier’s game. It was a reference to the last words of Eric Garner who said “I can’t breathe” before he succumbed to medical ailments prompted by a physical altercation with the NYPD.
Former President Barack Obama praised LeBron James in an interview with PEOPLE for wearing the shirt. He added said more sports stars should use their influence to address social issues.
“You know, I think LeBron did the right thing,” Obama said. “We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness.”
“We went through a long stretch there where [with] well-paid athletes the notion was: just be quiet and get your endorsements and don’t make waves,” Obama said. “LeBron is an example of a young man who has, in his own way and in a respectful way, tried to say, ‘I’m part of this society, too’ and focus attention.”
Lebron James’ political activism contrasts with the understated on-the-court and off-the-court approach of legendary NBA champion Michael Jordan, someone who his former coach Phil Jackson knows extremely well.
“Republicans buy sneakers, too,” Jordan famously said.
In the hit documentary “The Last Dance,” the iconic Jordan was pressured to amend his statement.
“I don’t think that statement needs to be corrected because I said it in jest on a bus with Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen,” Jordan said. “It was thrown off the cuff. My mother asked to do a PSA for Harvey Gantt, and I said, ‘Look, Mom, I’m not speaking out of pocket about someone that I don’t know. But I will send a contribution to support him.’ Which is what I did.”
“I do commend Muhammad Ali for standing up for what he believed in. But I never thought of myself as an activist. I thought of myself as a basketball player,” he added.
“I wasn’t a politician when I was playing my sport,” he went on. “I was focused on my craft. Was that selfish? Probably. But that was my energy. That’s where my energy was.”
It looks like Michael Jordan and his former coach Phil Jackson are on the same page when it comes to politics in sports as much they were on the basketball court when they won six NBA championships together.
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OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.