Phil Jackson attends Tribeca Talks: Storytellers: Kobe Bryant with Glen Keane during 2017 Tribeca Film Festival at BMCC Tribeca PAC on April 23, 2017 in New York City (Noam Galai/WireImage).
Phil Jackson Gets Called Out for Anti-Social Justice Remarks
Former NBA coach Phil Jackson has been at the center of controversy for saying he stopped watching basketball when players began wearing social justice slogans.
Phil Jackson’s recent commentary on the social justice movement isn’t sitting well with those associated with the NBA. While appearing on the podcast Tetragrammatonwith Rick Rubin, the 77-year-old shared that he hasn’t watched basketball since 2020 at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement and the bubble format in Orlando, Florida, expressing his discomfort with slogans on players’ jerseys and on the court.
“ … They had things on their back like 'Justice' and a funny thing happened like, 'Justice just went to the basket and Equal Opportunity knocked him down,'" Jackson said on the podcast. "... Some of my grandkids thought it was pretty funny to play up those names; I couldn't watch that."
\u201cPhil Jackson says he doesn\u2019t like basketball\u2019s evolution & doesn\u2019t watch anymore, thought the Bubble & political slogans on jerseys was \u201cwanky\u201d and made fun of it with his grandchildren\n\nwas listening to his new interview with Rick Rubin & thought it was interesting.\u201d— Clique Productions (@Clique Productions) 1681983520
Protests flared in the summer of 2020 after the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, both unarmed and gunned down by law officials. Some NBA games were later postponed when 29-year-old Wisconsin man Jacob Blake was shot by members of the Kenosha Police Department. However, Jackson deemed protests by NBA players unhelpful.
"It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game," he said, adding "and they didn't know it was turning other people off... People want to see sports as non-political. Politics stays out of the game; it doesn't need to be there."
Former NBA player Jalen Rose responded in a video on Sunday (April 23), referencing Jackson’s work with Black players.
"You can’t make this up. Hall of Fame coach and 11-time champion Phil Jackson claims to have stopped supporting the NBA because it became ‘too political’ when it went into the bubble and was catering to certain audiences by putting slogans on the back of jerseys and Black Lives Matter on the floor," Rose said.
He added, "The same Phil Jackson that won championships with some of the greatest Black athletes in the history of the game – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant. Made millions on their backs and off their sweat equity. You’re sitting there watching the game with your grandkids and y’all think it's funny when justice passes the ball to equal opportunity. When somebody shows you who they are, believe them. So, stop watching … forever."