Trayvon Martin: What did Kobe Bryant say about justice?

Trayvon Martin was 'wronged,' tweeted L.A. Lakers star Kobe Bryant. But only after his comments about the Miami Heat's support of Trayvon Martin prompted calls for a boycott of Bryant's products. What did Bryant say that prompted criticism from African Americans?

By , Staff writer

Could an African-American insinuate that George Zimmerman is not guilty?

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant tested those waters in a New Yorker interview. And he quickly found out how hot the water can get.

When asked about the Miami Heat team photo (taken in 2013) wearing hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was fatally shot in 2012, Bryant seemed to criticize their quick support of Martin.

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“I won’t react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American. 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.”

The reaction was swift, and mostly critical.

Black civil rights activist Najee Ali, director of Project Islamic H.O.P.E., reportedly called for a boycott of Bryant merchandise.

“Bryant comments concerning the Heat’s support of Trayvon Martin are indefensible... Bryant’s comments show his lack of compassion for the Martin family and their supporters. Americans of all races didn’t support Trayvon because he was African-American. We supported him because he was an unarmed youth who was racially profiled, stalked, confronted, and then murdered by George Zimmerman. African American youth should no longer buy Bryant’s jerseys or shoes and should boycott all products he endorses. Bryant doesn’t identify with the struggle that our African-American youth face nationally. So why should we continue to support Bryant who has never truly identified with the African American experience.”

Bryant quickly clarified his position in a tweet Thursday about the Trayvon Martin case. “Travon (sic) Martin was wronged THATS my opinion and thats what I believe the FACTS showed. The system did not work #myopinion #tweetURthoughts.”

If Bryant was unaware of the political and social turmoil that continues in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, he knows now.

Earlier this month, Trayvon Martin's mother joined some 500 people for a rally in Tallahassee, Fla., to urge state legislators to make changes in the "stand your ground" law.

"Stand your ground will not stand," Sybrina Fulton said. "This law is wrong. Stand your ground is absolutely, positively wrong."  

Fulton spoke after Reverend Al Sharpton led a mostly black crowd of protesters on a short march to the steps of the Capitol, where the Republican-dominated legislature began its annual session, according to Reuters. A bill to repeal the 2005 self-defense law, which allows Floridians to use deadly force when they think their lives are in danger, was rejected late last year by a House committee.

A week later, a legislative committee took a major step toward clarifying Florida's 'stand your ground' self-defense law, approving some restrictions on its use and clarifying that the statute does not permit 'vigilantism' by neighborhood watch activists.

The compromise deal between supporters of the original 2005 statute and critics who want the law repealed, provides that no-one who initiates a violent confrontation may claim protection under the law. It also requires police to set forth rules for neighborhood watch groups, specifically providing that patrol volunteers may only notify police about suspicious persons and not pursue or confront them, according to Reuters.

While Kobe Bryant quickly clarified his view of the Trayvon Martin case. His view that every African-Americans should consider the facts and draw their own conclusions about Trayvon Martin – and other issues – also has its supporters.

When asked about the Bryant's comments in the New Yorker, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith said he agreed with Bryant.

"This notion that because you're black you're supposed to think a certain way, I don't understand. We're not one monolithic group where we all look, and think and act alike. That's ridiculous," said Smith on the "The Arsenio Hall Show" late night talk show on CBS-TV.

Smith, an African American, also said: "We make up 14 percent of the population of the United States of America. We are not even the dominant minority anymore, that's the Hispanic population in this country. We have to recognize that we are outnumbered and as a result of that sometimes the system is unjust, sometimes is unfair. It doesn't accord us the license to be unfair as well.... We have to be just as fair minded as we are asking other people to be toward us."

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