Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Time: Don’t Let NYPD Shootings Cloud Issue of Institutionalized Racism

Author, filmmaker and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar penned an essay for Time Magazine discussing the recent shooting deaths of two NYPD officers.
Author, filmmaker and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar penned an essay for Time Magazine discussing the recent shooting deaths of two NYPD officers. –Getty Images

In the years since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hung up his playing shoes, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer has collected a host of titles, including filmmaker, author and cultural ambassador.

He’s been a vocal advocate for African-Americans, and this weekend penned an essay for Time Magazine on the shooting deaths of two NYPD officers on Saturday.

Some have linked the shooting to the protests that sprung up after grand juries failed to prosecute the officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Abdul-Jabbar disagrees, saying the suggestion the killer was acting in solidarity with the protests is false and a danger to the cause.

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“The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan,’’ he writes. “Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.’’

Abdul-Jabbar singles out some police unions as especially at fault for making these claims, citing a tweet by the NYPD’s Sergeants Benevolent Association saying “The blood of 2 executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio,’’ and another by former New York governer George Pataki, who called the shooting the “predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric’’ of Attorney General Eric Holder and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Abdul-Jabbar equates these claims to policism — ‘a form of reverse racism’, he says — that’s “born of financial self-interest (unions) or party politics (Republican Pataki besmirching Democrat de Blasio) rather than social justice.’’

In his eyes, the protests are not anti-cop, but anti-racism. It’s a negative influence that has seeped into parts of the justice system, but it’s no more indicative of all police than a child-abusing priest is to an entire religion, he says.

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“Police are not under attack, institutionalized racism is,’’ he writes. “Trying to remove sexually abusive priests is not an attack on Catholicism, nor is removing ineffective teachers an attack on education. Bad apples, bad training and bad officials who blindly protect them, are the enemy.’’

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