Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: 'I Feel Like I'm Caught Between Hope and History'

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistJune 2, 2020

FILE - This Oct. 11, 2014, file photo shows retired basketball Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar addressing the audience during the 2014 Carousel of Hope Ball in Beverly Hills, Calif. Abdul-Jabbar has briefly returned to the hospital two weeks after undergoing quadruple coronary bypass surgery, but his business manager said Wednesday, April 29, 2015, it was just a precaution and the NBA's career scoring leader is doing fine. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP,File)
Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

Basketball Hall of Fame center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said Monday he hopes the country can "find a cure" for police departments that have a "culture of hostility toward minority communities."

"Bad cops make it horrible for all the good cops, the overwhelming majority of whom are just out there doing their jobs without much appreciation," Abdul-Jabbar said during an appearance on ESPN's SportsCenter. "Our police officers are incredible people. ... We gotta find a way to cope with bad cops."

The 73-year-old New York City native, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016 for longtime advocacy of social justice, said the killing of 46-year-old black man George Floyd while in Minneapolis Police Department custody last week can be a turning point for positive change.

"I feel like I'm caught between hope and history," Abdul-Jabbar said on SportsCenter. "The hope is that the United States will live up to its ideals and overcome its history of very poor racial attitudes that end up in violence against black Americans."

Here's the complete conversation between Abdul-Jabbar and ESPN's Scott Van Pelt:

Derek Chauvin, the officer shown on video with his knee on the back of Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd repeatedly stated he couldn't breathe, was arrested Friday and faces charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. He and three other officers involved in the incident were fired.

The situation has sparked nationwide protests over the past week.

Abdul-Jabbar wrote an op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times on Saturday about Floyd's death and the protests that have followed:

"Yes, protests often are used as an excuse for some to take advantage, just as when fans celebrating a hometown sports team championship burn cars and destroy storefronts. I don't want to see stores looted or even buildings burn. But African Americans have been living in a burning building for many years, choking on the smoke as the flames burn closer and closer. Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible—even if you're choking on it—until you let the sun in. Then you see it's everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it's always still in the air."

Abdul-Jabbar spent 20 years in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers before retiring in 1989. He earned 19 All-Star selections and won six championships.

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