Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Condemns Anti-Semitism: Be Outraged by Anyone's Injustice

Blake SchusterAnalyst IJuly 15, 2020

This photo taken February 4, 2019 shows Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the Hollywood Reporter's 7th Annual Nominees Night in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX / AFP) / ALTERNATE CROP (Photo by JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/AFP via Getty Images)
JEAN-BAPTISTE LACROIX/Getty Images

Former NBA star and social justice advocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has taken many to task for the lack of outrage over the recent anti-Semitic messages from public figures.

In his op-ed column in The Hollywood Reporter, Abdul-Jabbar called out not only DeSean Jackson and Stephen Jackson for their words and lackluster apologies but also the national response at large:

"Recent incidents of anti-Semitic tweets and posts from sports and entertainment celebrities are a very troubling omen for the future of the Black Lives Matter movement, but so too is the shocking lack of massive indignation. Given the New Woke-fulness in Hollywood and the sports world, we expected more passionate public outrage. What we got was a shrug of meh-rage.

"... In a CNN interview, Stephen Jackson was angry and belligerent at being called out: 'I stated I could have changed my words. There's nothing that I said that I support any of that. There's nothing I said that I hate anybody. I apologize for my words and I could have switched up. That's the end of it. I love everybody.' While it's possible the words were wrong, celebrities have a responsibility to get the words right. It's not enough to have good intentions, because it's the actual deeds—and words—which have the real impact. In this case destructive impact. In 2013, there were 751 reported hate crimes against Jews, but by 2019 the number had nearly tripled to 2,107. That same year, a gunman in San Diego entered a synagogue and murdered one person while wounding three."

Following his outburst of anti-Semitic social media posts that included a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler, DeSean apologized and was fined an undisclosed amount of money by the Philadelphia Eagles. He has since made efforts to educate himself, meeting with a local rabbi, an anti-hate group and a Holocaust survivor.

Stephen went on Instagram Live to speak with a prominent rabbi a few days after defending DeSean's posts and making his own anti-Semitic comments, for which he expressed regret. He also appeared on CNN and said he "could've changed his words."

Abdul-Jabbar made it clear that calling out one form of hate only to latch on to a different form is not only hypocritical but also the antithesis of social justice and reform.

"The lesson never changes, so why is it so hard for some people to learn: No one is free until everyone is free," Abdul-Jabbar concluded. "As Martin Luther King Jr. explained: 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.' So, let's act like it. If we're going to be outraged by injustice, let's be outraged by injustice against anyone."