Mitch Perry Report 4.2.14: Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and political protests

Posted by Mitch Perry on Wed, Apr 2, 2014 at 8:39 AM

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Last week's New Yorker included a lengthy look inside the mind of Kobe Bryant, the Los Angeles Lakers basketball star now in the twilight of his amazing career. It's been an incredibly frustrating season for the NBA great, one of the fiercest athletes to ever grace the hardwood. He's essentially been out of commission the entire year based on two different injuries, and has had to watch his team flounder in embarrassing fashion (I've posted a link here but you have to be a subscriber to the New Yorker to have access to it).

Undoubtedly the most newsworthy part of the story (which you knew would get some pushback) was Bryant's comment on the photo that LeBron James posted online of Miami Heat players dressed in hoodies with their heads bowed in solidarity with Trayvon Martin following George Zimmerman's exoneration on murder and manslaughter charges last summer.

"I won't react to something just because I’m supposed to, because I’m an African-American," Bryant told the magazine's Ben McGrath. "That argument doesn’t make any sense to me. So we want to advance as a society and as 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, if we’ve progressed as a society, then you 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.”

Over the weekend Heat guard Dwyane Wade responded, telling Bleacher Report that he "respectfully disagreed" with the Laker star. "It was our backyard, and being in our backyard, being something that a lot of guys on this team — not only growing up in the kind of environment that Trayvon was in — but also having young boys," he explained. "Knowing that [Martin] is a big fan of the Miami Heat, that is something that we got behind. As a team. I can't even say the organization. It was as a team. We got behind it. And it was more so that than the color of his skin."

Wade went on to say that he and his teammates get behind "a lot of causes that go on," and not just black causes, noting that Chris Bosh wrote "SOS Venezuela" on his shoes earlier this year in support of the opposition to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro (interestingly, Maduro fights back on U.S. press coverage of Venezuela in an op-ed today in the New York Times).

And LeBron James recently cut a PSA advocating that people sign up for the Affordable Care Act.

Traditionally athletes don't engage too much in public causes. Who can forget Michael Jordan's line that "Republicans buys shoes, too" about why he didn't get involved in political campaigns in his home state of North Carolina, specifically when Jesse Helms was attacking Harvey Gantt using loaded racial imagery? There's more to this story, which you can read about in McGrath's blog post on the front page of the New Yorker's website today (that one is available to everyone).

The battle to stop light rail from happening in PInellas County continues. Yesterday Greenlight Pinellas critic Jeff Brandes used his power to request an investigation by the FDOT on whether PSTA's educational advertising for the ballot initiative has crossed over into outright advocacy.

Jack Latvala's bill in the state Senate that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to have access to tuition at Florida state colleges and universities at the much lower in-state tuition rate advanced yesterday....and you know about the ballot measure for medical marijuana this fall...what about the proposal for medical marijuana proceeding in the Legislature this spring? Read more about that here.

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