NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said athletes and other celebrities may be the "best hope in turning the country around" amid backlash from United States President Donald Trump directed toward players who don't stand for the national anthem.
On Wednesday, the longtime Los Angeles Lakers superstar penned an article for the Hollywood Reporter about the actions by NFL players and other high-profile individuals during the past week.
"This marks a decided shift in the sports and entertainment industries' role in political resistance to the Trump administration's assault on American values and constitutional civil liberties," he wrote. "They have evolved from quiet protest and heckling sarcasm, to respected leaders informing the public about what's at stake. And in doing so, perhaps change the downward social spiral we are in."
Abdul-Jabbar mentioned Stevie Wonder, Eddie Vedder and Samuel L. Jackson as celebrities who've lent their voices to the cause of fighting social injustice. He believes it will be important for others to follow suit in order to appeal to Middle America.
"That's who entertainers and athletes hope to influence," he wrote. "When a staunch Trump supporter like New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady says, 'I certainly disagree with what [Trump] said. I thought it was just divisive,' and locks arms with his teammates during the national anthem to show support for their protest, that has impact on this group."
Meanwhile, Trump continued to take aim at the NFL and its owners for allowing players who protest during the anthem to remain on the roster during an appearance on Fox News.
"The NFL is in a box and they have to do something about it," the president said. "I think they're afraid of their players, if you want to know the truth."
A Remington Research Group poll released Monday showed 51 percent of respondents are watching less football during the 2017 season and 69 percent of those individuals said the reason for their drop was "players using the NFL as a stage for their political views."
It's been a hot-button topic since the 2016 preseason when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to kneel during the anthem, a decision followed by other athletes. He opted out of his Niners contract in March and hasn't been signed by another team.
Abdul-Jabbar said he thinks the entire situation has racist undertones, writing: "The subtext here is that black athletes and entertainers have been invited to the Big House to sit at the table with the bosses. As long as we keep shuffling and entertaining, express our gratitude and keep our mouths shut like small children, then we can stay. But if we mention the conditions of those people outside, we are threatened with expulsion from the white Garden of Eden."
The 70-year-old six-time NBA champion added he's nevertheless encouraged by the "brave, outspoken athletes and entertainers leading the resistance."