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Abdul-Jabbar: 'Being Dismissed by One Party and Taken for Granted by Another' Has Hurt Blacks

Former NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar delivers remarks at the 2016 Democratic National Convention at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia on July 28, 2016. (Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via AP)

WASHINGTON – NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump “doesn’t want to speak in front of a black audience” but recommended that he reach out to African-American groups such as the NAACP if he wants to gain support from African-Americans.

“My reaction to that speech was if he wanted to actually communicate something to black Americans he should go and talk to them at the NAACP or any of the various black groups that have invited him to come and speak, and he doesn’t want to speak in front of a black audience so he’s preaching to the choir. He’s using the image of black Americans for something to illuminate his vision,” Abdul-Jabbar said during a recent discussion at Politics & Prose about his new book, Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White.

Abdul-Jabbar’s comments referred to Trump’s speech at a campaign rally in Michigan where he made a pitch for support from African-American voters, asking, “What the hell do you have to lose?”

The book event was held before the Trump campaign added a campaign stop at an African-American congregation in Detroit on Saturday.

Abdul-Jabbar was asked if Democrats are taking African-Americans for granted.

“African-Americans need to vote. They need to run for office themselves and they need to vote and they need to pay attention to what’s going on and let their elected representatives know that they are watching. Politicians usually pay attention to that because they need votes, and if that happens they don’t get away with the things they have been getting away with,” he said.

“For black Americans, being dismissed by one party and taken for granted by another party really hasn’t really done us much good and we have to find a way around all that,” he added.

Abdul-Jabbar was also asked if he is satisfied with today’s athletes as role models.

‘I think they are starting to get a sense of the power that they have… They get a chance to be wealthy and the economic power they have can enable them to make incredible changes in their communities and just have to figure out how to do it but the means are there. They have the money and they have the consciousness.”

He praised NBA star Michael Jordan for recently speaking out about racial issues.

“What I’ve seen from people like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in the past couple of months really has given me a lot of heart and Michael Jordan has woken up from the dead, oh my God. I’m so happy,” he said.

The moderator mentioned that Jordan said in the past that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” The quote has been attributed to Jordan over the years but he has denied making the statement.

“That was an excuse for him to stay on the sideline. You can’t be that comfortable,” Abdul-Jabbar responded. “You have to go out and risk a few things if you are going to achieve anything.”

Abdul-Jabbar also explained that the history of the Catholic Church prompted his decision to convert to Islam.

“I realized the Catholic Church – I was raised Catholic – had a lot to do with the slave trade, and at that point I didn’t want anything to do with the Catholic Church. In looking for the means to express my belief in the divine, Islam seemed to make the most sense — that’s why I became Muslim. It had nothing to do with politics or anything like that. I didn’t want to be one of the black Muslims,” he said.

“I thought they were trying to promote the same type of racism black Americans had suffered under, yet they were going to embrace it and just try to turn it on its head and direct it at white people — that’s not what we are supposed to be doing. Islam teaches us to get along with people — to try to live in harmony. Muslims worship the God of Abraham — that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully that’s what Jews are about and Christians. We all worship the same God,” he added.