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Amaechi on NFL: 'The days of the compliant negro are over"

RESOLUTE: American football player Colin Kaepernick, centre, flanked by former team mates, refusing to acknowledge the national anthem because of the grave racial and social inequalities in the US today (image credit: Getty)

JOHN AMAECHI believes NBA stars across the USA could – and should – Take a Knee when the regular season starts on October 17.

Until Luol Deng exploded on to the scene, Amaechi was Britain’s biggest basketball export, playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz in two successful spells Stateside. Now 46, he has carved out a career as a broadcaster, academic and consultant helping bluechip companies improve leadership, communication skills and diversity.

Amaechi has watched in horror as President Donald Trump called for NFL stars protesting against racial injustice by kneeling during the US national anthem to be fired or suspended.
Amaechi said:

“The NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, has been pretty explicit that the opportunity is there for players to protest, if they wish to.

“Doubtless you will see players taking a knee in the NBA. But significantly there are a number of coaches and owners who feel the same way, so you might find teams being more creative than that.”

EMPATHY: British-born NBA Basketball icon John Amaechi (image credit: Amaechi Performance)

Back in 2014, players like LeBron James and Kobe Bryant got their teams together to wear ‘I can’t breathe’ t-shirts, a reference to the final words of African-American Eric Garner, who died after being put in a chokehold by a police officer.

Amaechi commented:

“When you have a team coming out and doing that, it’s much more powerful than when it’s just one or two individuals. That could happen again.

“It should be the president taking a knee. I think now it’s appropriate to step up the action.
The days of being the compliant negro are over. Those people who say these players should all keep quiet and be grateful to play in the NFL or the NBA, they use the same language directed at black men by lynch mobs.

“I was a fat 17 year-old from Stockport who had never touched a basketball in his life. Six years later I was starting in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers. If anyone thinks I should be grateful for that, they’re wrong.”

Amaechi got where he did through hard work and determination, and he believes Trump may have bitten off more than he can chew by taking on the sports world.


The President told a rally in Alabama that team owners should say:

“Get that son of a bitch off the field right now” if they “disrespect” the flag by kneeling during the anthem.

Amaechi countered:

“It’s especially important to speak out when people abdicate their moral responsibility the way Trump has done. How can you use the phrase ‘son of a bitch’ as President of the United States, knowing the effect that will have, and not have abdicated your moral responsibility?”

With LeBron calling Trump a “bum” in angry tweet and the NBA’s longest-serving coach Gregg Popovic of the San Antonio Spurs accusing the President of being “delusional” and making the US “an embarrassment in the world” there is certainly the possibility that the protests escalate.

Amaechi said:

“I don’t think ‘bum’ is the language I would use, but I do think he is a narcissistic sociopath. Is that any more socially acceptable than the word ‘bum’?”

A LOT TO SAY: President Donald Trump attacked NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem before games (image credit: AP)

Cavs star LeBron spoke out after Trump “disinvited” the NBA champion Golden State Warriors from the White House after it emerged their star player Steph Curry was uncomfortable with the idea.

Amaechi, who often spoke out on social issues as a player, and rocked the NBA world by coming out as gay shortly after he retired, said:

“Most parents would chastise an eight year-old for being so childish.

"People have a weird expectation that athletes are only role models when they are trying to sell you shoes, and that speaking out like this is not being a role model. But it is. If some fans don’t like it, tough.

"If you’re happy that your athletes are just sales people but not for them to point out the deep inequalities in the world, you have your priorities wrong. Trump’s base is 30 per cent of the population, so 70 per cent of the population will listen when reasonable people say reasonable things. Hopefully they will really look at this issue.

“I don’t think you will find many NBA players who feel that when they are away from the arenas and the cameras and the fans, when they are out there on the streets, they are anything more than a black man in danger of being shot by the police. If you are a black man in America you are more likely to be shot by the police than a white man. That is just a fact. Privilege does not protect you.

“Read the third verse of the anthem. The one no-one sings. ‘No refuge could save the hireling and slave. From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave’. That’s the anthem people are putting a hand on their heart for.”

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