BASKETBALL

Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith ‘symbolic knee’ real testament to solidarity

Perspective: NBA Hall of Fame point guard Kenny Smith took a ‘symbolic knee’ and walked off the set of 'Inside the NBA' telecast 
By JARRETTE FELLOWS, JR.

Last Wednesday, Aug. 26, former NBA star, now sports commentator Kenny “The Jet” Smith, walked off the set of the live telecast of “Inside the NBA,” in a show of solidarity with the Milwaukee Bucks players who boycotted Wednesday’s playoff  Game 5 of their playoff series with the Orlando Magic to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wis.

Smith unplugged his microphone and abruptly walked off the set, leaving co-hosts Charles BarkleyShaquille O'Neal and Ernie Johnson speechless in his wake.

An NBA standout from from 1987 to 1997 as a member of the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and Denver Nuggets, Smith’s action was a “symbolic knee,” to the Colin Kaepernick peaceful protests during the playing of the National Anthem at the opening of NFL games to eschew the often deadly use of force police exercise in confrontations with Black males.

Smith’s reasoning for walking off the set were clearly articulated:  

“As a Black man, as a former player ... I think it’s best for me to support the players and just not be here tonight," Smith said. “Right now, my head is like ready to explode.”

Smith, the sixth pick in the 1987 NBA draft, remarked he couldn’t stop thinking about the incident and the surrounding issues — whether in the car or in the broadcast studio. He said he felt compelled to take “some sort of action.”

After he walked off, Ernie Johnson eventually said he respected “Kenny’s decision,” as the show continued without O’Neal or Barkley commenting on the issue either way.

The 55-year-old Smith, who won two NBA titles during his decade-long career, is part of a quartet of hosts that has become one of the most popular basketball shows on television.

It is not known whether Smith will face any negative consequence for taking the stand he did, but many around the NBA and his fan base were declaring his actions exemplary and courageous.

We do too.

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