SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) — Oscar Robertson commends the off-court activism of today’s NBA players, although the Hall of Famer wonders why more white athletes aren’t speaking out, too.
Robertson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from presenters Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the NBA Awards on Monday night.
Robertson is the career leader in triple-doubles and was the first player to average one for a season. His antitrust case against the NBA also ushered in free agency for players, which Robertson said was his most important assist.
The 79-year-old former guard who starred at Crispus Attucks High in Indianapolis and in college at Cincinnati before going to the NBA said it’s time for players to speak out about politics and education, among other issues.
“But the only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?” he said backstage. “This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around you.”
Robertson’s high school and college career was plagued by racism.
“But it seems that what we have today is a system where you don’t want players to say anything at all,” he said. “Because years ago they didn’t say anything because they couldn’t say anything. But now I hope they all, the whites and the blacks get together. Even with the football.”
Robertson was referring to NFL players who have taken a knee or sat in silence during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial inequality.
“What do you think is going to happen when the union gets involved with the owners?” he said “You think it’s going to be settled really easily? No, it’s not. It’s going to be nothing but a total mess.”