Kobe Bryant More Rush Limbaugh Than MLK?

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Rushed shot?
An ESPN columnist asserts that Kobe Bryant's charmed life--having a father who was an NBA player, growing up in Italy, going to a public high school in the Philadelphia suburbs, entering the "pampered" NBA himself and, yes, residing now in Orange County--makes him come off more like Rush Limbaugh than Martin Luther King Jr. when discussing race.

In "Kobe Bryant's Colorblindness," Jason Whitlock reacts to a recent story in The New Yorker where the Black Mamba was asked about the Miami Heat's hoodie photo in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was killed in Florida by overzealous neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman.

The Lakers' superstar, who lives with his wife and daughters in a gated Newport Coast community, answered with "a mouthful," according to Whitlock.

"I won't react to something just because I'm supposed to, because I'm an African-American," says Bryant in the March 31 issue. "That argument doesn't make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and a culture, but, say, if something happens to an African-American we immediately come to his defense? Yet you want to talk about how far we've progressed as a society? Well, we've progressed as a society, then don't jump to somebody's defense just because they're African-American. You sit and you listen to the facts just like you would in any other situation, right? So I won't assert myself."

Some have praised Bryant for that answer, saying it shows this country is moving beyond race, just as Dr. King dreamed it would. But Whitlock points out the Heat took their photo before charges were filed against George Zimmerman, a time when media figures like Geraldo Rivera argued that wearing a hoodie made Martin suspicious.

"The Heat did not demand a conviction," Whitlock writes. "The Heat did not make any collective formal comments during or after the Zimmerman trial. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat reside in Florida, where the controversial 'stand your ground' law is being used to justify the use of deadly force. Trayvon Martin was Floridian and a Heat fan, and he was killed in Florida."

Then comes the bit I referenced above:

"Kobe Bryant lives in Orange County, Calif. The son of an NBA player, Bryant grew up in Italy. He attended a highly regarded public high school in an affluent suburb of Philadelphia and then waltzed into the secluded, pampered world of the NBA.

"Perhaps it should not be all that surprising that Bryant can't relate to Martin or the actions of people such as James and Wade, who can relate to Martin's plight. Martin, James and Wade grew up in a similar fashion."

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Photo by Christopher Victorio/OC Weekly
Kobe Bryant with the only other black he could find in Orange County.
Brace yourselves:

"Kobe appears to have more in common with Limbaugh. Maybe that explains Kobe's disingenuous appeal for colorblindness when the Martin case clearly called for fair-minded people regardless of color to factor in America's complicated racial history."

Whitlock cannot recall Bryant "saying a word about anything racial or controversial until now. A cynic might argue Kobe didn't start perverting Dr. King's dream for the approval of Limbaugh & Co. until injuries deteriorated his NBA fame."

Oof! Low blow.

After backlash from Bryant's New Yorker comments--which, come to think of it, Whitlock is piling on to--the shooting-from-the-hip guard took to Twitter, retweeting a Frederick Douglass quote he posted on Instagram two days after Zimmerman was acquitted and that was supportive of Martin and tweeting anew that Trayvon was "wronged."

"One more time for the tweeting impaired, this is NOT about legal debate or sides. It's about equality on ALL fronts #colorblind #genderblind," Bryant also tweeted.

Ah, well, for his entire career, Kobe Bryant has been compared to Michael Jordan. Here we go again, apparently: MJ was criticized for having downplayed his blackness throughout years, especially when hawking whitey's Nikes.

And don't get me started on the Hanes tighty whiteys.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!



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