The NBA announced a new award on Thursday to recognise players taking a stance in the fight for social justice. Each NBA team will nominate a player for consideration for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Social Justice Champion Award. A shortlist of five candidates will yield one winner, but all five will be given money for a charity of their choice.
“I’m really proud of what the NBA has been doing all along in terms of activism and their efforts for equality and inclusion,” Abdul-Jabbar said in an interview with The Associated Press. “I think they’ve done a great job. I’ve always felt that was something important and teaming up with them to be involved in this award is very meaningful.”
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The winner will receive $100,000 to donate to a charity of his choice. The other four finalists will receive $25,000 apiece, also for charity.
“In addition to being one of our greatest players, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has devoted much of his life to advocating for equality and social justice,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a release announcing the creation of the new award.
“With this new award, we are proud to recognize and celebrate NBA players who are using their influence to make an impact on their communities and our broader society,” he added.
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Basketball legend Abdul-Jabbar has been an activist in one form or another throughout his life. He met Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a 17-year-old and was deeply inspired by him. Abdul-Jabbar attended The Cleveland Summit in June 1967 where he, Bill Russell, Jim Brown and other prominent black athletes came together to talk with Muhammad Ali about the boxing legend’s stance against the Vietnam War. The Hall of Famer has worked to help economically depressed areas improve schools.
Abdul-Jabbar elaborated on where his inspiration for ‘being involved’ comes from. It was in his blood. His great-uncle, John Alcindor, was a physician in England during World War I — treating war veterans for free. He was famously known as the “Black Doctor of Paddington.”
“I think it’s just really a family tradition and something that makes sense,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “When you see something wrong you have to speak out about it and try to effect some change.”
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Abdul Jabbar applauded the present NBA players for standing up for justice. The players, led by superstars of the current generation including LeBron James, have spoken out repeatedly on matters such as police brutality and systemic racism in America.
“All of these needs, they have to start with small steps,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “I mean, we can’t just take a big, huge giant step. That usually ends up being a step in the wrong puddle. So, we’ve got to take our time and understand that we need to take all these little steps to get to where we need to go — where there’s justice.
“We don’t want to make policemen’s jobs impossible. But we don’t want police just arbitrarily killing people. It’s going to take some effort, but we can get there.”
(With inputs from AP)
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