NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, newly enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame, gave his opinion on the protest by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Coin Kaepernick who took a knee during the National Anthem at the team’s final pre-season game against the San Diego Chargers.
Kaepernick is expected to do the same before tonight’s season opener at home against the Los Angeles Rams. Several other NFL players so far have followed Kaepernick’s example.
“I would never do that,” O’Neal succinctly asserted during a Fox & Friends interview about Kapenerick sitting during the pre-game ceremony featuring the Star-Spangled Banner, a controversy that seems to have consumed a disproportionate amount of media oxygen. See video embedded below.
Among the many honors on his resume after 19 years in pro basketball, O’Neal is a 15-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA Champion (earning three rings with the Lakers and one with the Miami Heat), and an Olympic Gold Medalist. Shaq ranks seventh in all-time points scored in the NBA, but he gave away an untold number of points because of his inability to make free throws. That being said, he is a two-time NBA leader in points scored in a season and is one of only three players in the league to win NBA MVP, All-Star game MVP, and Finals MVP awards in the same year.
O’Neal is a ubiquitous presence on TV through commercials and as an analyst on TNT’s Inside the NBA, among many other media ventures and appearances. He was originally drafted as the first overall pick in the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic out of LSU, and in addition to the Magic, Lakers, and Heat, he also played for the Phoenix Suns, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Boston Celtics as his career wound down.
When the Fox hosts asked Shaq about the Kaepernick situation, the former dominating NBA center noted that there is an armed forces and law enforcement connection in his own family.
“I mean to each his own; it’s something I wouldn’t do. His comments were there were injustices. There’s always been injustices. Me personally, I would probably go about it a different way…I don’t know Colin, but again, to each is own. I don’t really have a say on it but I would never do that. My father was a military man, and he protected this country — uncles are in law enforcement, they go out and work hard every day. Just, you know, there are other ways to get your point across.”
O’Neal, who himself has served as a reserve police officer, also indicated that you can be pro military and pro cop and also oppose oppression in the African-American community. Shaq also seemed to suggest that Colin Kaepernick was a latecomer to social activism.
“My thing is, you know, you have to enter onto the scene one way. People like Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell, they were one way their whole career. You can’t show us something, and then go to another, just because of certain issues. I’m aware of all the issues, but my question is, how come you didn’t do it last year, or how come you didn’t do it when you first entered the NFL…it’s his constitutional right to do that, but I would never do that.”
“O’Neal’s late stepfather, Phillip A. Harrison, was a career Army Reserve sergeant,” the New York Daily News detailed.
Shaquille O’Neal’s speech at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Friday evening, where he was one of 10 inductees, was both humorous and heartfelt, the New York Times reported.
“O’Neal gave the final speech of the night. It had serious moments, as when he thanked his parents, Phil Harrison and Lucille O’Neal, for giving him the discipline and drive that drove his N.B.A. dream. But he also tossed in light moments. He thanked his former Lakers teammate Kobe Bryant not only for helping him win three N.B.A. titles, ‘but also for getting me pushed off the team and traded to Miami.'”
[Photo by Elise Amendola/AP Images]