A few weeks after Kanye West professed his love for President Donald Trump on Twitter and told a TMZ audience that 400 years of slavery “sounds like a choice,” recently retired NBA legend Kobe Bryant was asked about the rapper’s comments by one of the 300 high school students on hand at WE RISE.
“I’m sure [I feel] the same way everybody else here in this room feels,” Bryant told the audience. “What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction, as is everybody else’s reaction.”
What exactly were Kanye West’s comments?
West called Trump “my brother” and shared a photo of his autographed Make America Great Again hat on Twitter late last month, but it was his comments on TMZ a week later that really created a public firestorm: “When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice.”
The 10-day WE RISE festival in downtown L.A. was established to raise mental health awareness. A week after West’s wife, Kim Kardashian, refuted rumors of West’s mental instability, the rapper opened up about his battles with mental health issues in an interview with radio host Charlamagne tha God. In that interview, West stood by his support for Trump, even if he doesn’t agree with him on everything, calling him an inspiration for his own presidential aspirations. West also said he “had a problem that [former President Barack] Obama’s from Chicago, and Chicago’s the murder capital of the world,” a demonstrably false statement. A day later, he made another, calling slavery a choice.
What is Kobe Bryant’s relationship to Kanye West?
“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say,” said Bryant. “That’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. Conversely, you also have to take the responses that come after that as well, because everybody has the freedom to say what it is that they feel. I was shocked just like anybody else. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth. He’s always challenging, not us as people, but really himself. He’s doing a lot of questioning internally himself, so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”
Kobe Bryant continues to go beyond basketball
Outside of wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt in support of Eric Garner, a black Staten Island resident whose 2014 choking death at the hands of a white New York Police Department officer did not result in an indictment, Bryant’s stances on social issues rarely made headlines during his playing days.
He has been more vocal in retirement, suggesting “you know what candidate I’m supporting” in 2016, waffling on whether he would have visited a Trump White House before deciding he would not, and taking the president to task for his criticism of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry in September, tweeting, “A POTUS whose name alone creates division and anger, whose words inspire dissension and hatred, can’t possible ‘Make America Great Again.'” Clearly, he and West disagree on this issue.
More criticisms of Kanye West
We should point out that the student’s question to Bryant about West’s comments on slavery was not about social issues. It was about history, and it was not open to interpretation. West was wrong.
Bryant is not the first to not how wrong West was, even if few others of his stature were so candid as to say, “What the hell are you talking about?” TMZ’s Van Lathan and author Ta-Nehisi Coates had two of the more thoughtful commentaries about why West’s comments weren’t just wrong, but why they are dangerous — why, if he’s challenging himself, as Bryant suggests, he’s got a lot more growing to do.
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