What Kobe Bryant Doesn’t Get About Trayvon—or Colorblindness

The NBA All-star is entitled to his opinion about Trayvon Martin. But he should know what he’s talking about before he chastises his pro-athlete colleagues.


Come on, Kobe Bryant. If you’re going to play the colorblind card, then at least try to think through what you’re actually saying.

And if you don’t want to be pigeonholed for your outlook on race in America, then maybe you shouldn’t pigeonhole your NBA colleagues when they express their views.

No professional athlete—black, or otherwise, including you—is under any obligation to speak out or offer his opinion on the issues of the day. But if any athlete—including you—decides to get into the pundit business, then he should make an effort to be well informed about the subject.

This time, though, I’m not sure that you did.

For anyone who missed it, in a New Yorker profile when Bryant was asked about fellow All-star LeBron James and his Miami Heat teammates donning hoodies last year in a photo to show support for Trayvon Martin’s family, Bryant reacted thusly:

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

I’m sure he thought—and probably intended to sound like—he was taking a balanced approach, effectively saying, “Just because I’m black doesn’t mean I come down on the side of any and every cause associated with another African American.”

OK, Kobe. That’s fine.

And, almost as surely, he’s saying that if we’ve made any strides toward a colorblind society, then just like everyone else, black folks have to “listen to the facts.”

Also fine.