When assessing Kobe Bryant's latest hey-look-at-me ploy for mainstream acceptance and popularity, facts matter.
If you remove contextual facts, Kobe's condescending lecture to African-Americans and the Miami Heat regarding the Trayvon Martin case sounds like promotion of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream. Once you add facts, Kobe sounds like he's promoting Rush Limbaugh's opening monologue.
When asked by a reporter from The New Yorker about the Heat's hoodie photo in support of Martin, the 17-year-old boy who was killed by an overzealous neighborhood watch captain, Bryant said a mouthful.
"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."
Let's examine the contextual facts.
The Heat took their photo before the state of Florida arrested and filed charges against George Zimmerman and when some high-profile people in the media (Geraldo Rivera) were arguing that wearing a hoodie made Martin suspicious. At the time, many people, particularly African-Americans, were upset that it appeared Zimmerman would go free before there was a proper investigation, let alone before a jury heard the case.
The brilliance of the Heat's hoodie photo is that, like any good picture, it spoke a thousand words. The picture screamed: Zimmerman better have a better excuse than a kid was wearing a hoodie and it was dark outside.
African-Americans are justifiably suspicious of the police and the criminal justice system. When an unarmed 17-year-old black boy is killed by a volunteer watchman with Zimmerman's checkered history, it is perfectly logical for African-Americans to demand that the authorities go above and beyond to be fair.
The Heat did not demand a conviction. 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.
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.
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.