It’s time to listen to Kareem and ignore Kanye

A towering man of great integrity came to Toronto and called a gnat a man of great infamy.

NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – philanthropist, author, documentary filmmaker, tireless social activist – has planted his size 16 boot firmly in the rear of the toxic and increasingly repulsive musical artist and entrepreneur iconic Kanye West, cultural influencer with a capital « I ». ” As in the first person singular, because it is always me-me-me for “Ye”. as the rapper is called now.

Yeezy is doing it again, doubling down on his anti-Semitic wedge following a driving T-boning – on the Paris Fashion Week catwalk no less – of Black Lives Matter, where he wore a t-shirt with the slogan « White Lives Matter « , which the Anti-Defamation League has identified as hate speech, adopted by the white supremacist movement. But so is the Yahoo course of an unattached idiot scholar who proclaimed that slavery « was a choice », said Underground Railroad ‘driver’ Harriet Tubman ‘never actually freed the slaves’, and recently insisted George Floyd died from a fentanyl injection and not from beatings policewomen.

The notorious rapper’s empire – music, fashion design, cheap reality TV gilding and associated vulgar celebrity – is shattered following searing anti-Jewish remarks he has made in recent weeks, repeated in rants on Fox News, podcasts and other social media platforms – until he was banned from Twitter and Instagram, to which he responded by signing a deal to buy Parler, the controversial app of « free speech » adored by conservatives, reactionaries and Big Lie promoters.

On Twitter, amid the storm of condemnations for earlier anti-Semitic invective, West had posted that he would go « death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE ».

All of this has put the 45-year-old hip-hop superstar in Abdul-Jabbar’s crosshairs.

« We can’t let the people who set the standards and everyone else wants to emulate them talk like that, » Abdul-Jabbar said Tuesday night at the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s annual Spirit of Hope benefit evening in Toronto. « That’s not what we’re supposed to do, especially in America where we say all men are created equal and that’s not what comes out of Kanye’s mouth. »

Long affiliated with social justice and anti-hate movements, the 75-year-old basketball star – six-time MVP, 19-time all-star – still holds the career points record (38,387) and the eponymous NBA l named the Social Justice Champion Award, given annually to an active player for off-court activism – decried West’s despicable rhetoric.

« When you have someone who sets the standards and people want to emulate them because their music is popular, we have to disabuse them of that. »

Abdul-Jabbar has always been in notable solidarity with Jews, recalling that blacks and Jews have a history of helping each other, from the turn of the 20th century and the founding of the NAACP, through the world wars and the Holocaust. , through the Civil War. human rights movement, « a direct collaboration between Jews and blacks to set up the legal apparatus to fight Jim Crow ».

But West, with his incendiary and bilious tirades, came into even more contact with white supremacists and anti-Semites. « You played with me and tried to blackball anyone who opposes your agenda, » he tweeted.

Abdul-Jabbar was speaking on the same day Adidas finally belatedly announced it had severed ties with West, ending a lucrative partnership that since 2020 had earned the company nearly $2 billion (US) in income per year. Earlier, Adidas – the German sportswear company founded by Nazi-party Adi Dassler that outfitted the Hitler Youth, its factory later forced to produce ammunition for the regime – simply issued a statement saying it was proceeding to a « review » of her relationship with West. The Anti-Defamation League fired back: « What more do you need to review? »

Under intense pressure, with its shares plummeting 16% and an estimated financial hit of $248 million – the cost of immediately halting production of Yeezy-branded products – Adidas, in its late statement, said said the society “does not tolerate anti-Semitism and any other type of hate speech…Ye’s recent statements and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous.

It took them weeks to realize that?

“In the meantime, Jewish children have been bullied and bullied and had to deal with many violent thoughts directed at them because someone like Kanye West said everything was fine,” Abdul-Jabbar pointed out. . « It’s not okay. »

After Ye’s ‘death con 3’, a group of protesters hung banners on a Los Angeles freeway overpass that read ‘KANYE IS RIGHT ABOUT JEWS’ while raising their arms in a salute Nazi.

This was not the first instance of Abdul-Jabbar shining his mighty light on anti-Semitism. In a 2020 op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter — viewed 5 million times online — he lambasted Hollywood and the sports industry for promoting, at the very least, condoning anti-Jewish bias.

« People won’t react to what anti-Semitism does until it happens to them, » Abdul-Jabbar told the audience at the Beanfield Center on the CNE grounds, which was attended by more than 1,000 people from the Jewish community.

Either way, after ditching its wait-and-see attitude, Adidas now joins a growing list of global brands and institutions that have parted ways with Kanye West in the past two weeks: Balenciaga, whose fashion show Ye had opened in Paris, her image deleted from videos and photos of the event (West had a clothing line with the fashion house; also deleted from Vogue Runway, the main platform for fashion shows, the editor of Vogue Magazine Anna Wintour stating that she would no longer work with West).

Dropped by The Gap, Foot Locker, JP Morgan Chase, United Talent Agency, Skims (the shapewear brand started by West’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian, though he still owns 5%), the Creative Artists Agency , one of the world’s leading booking agencies for performing artists.

This is not cancel culture at its worst. They are corporate and cultural entities that make ruthless decisions to disown a radioactive celebrity who indulges in a self-inflicted scandal. Maybe even a musical genius – he’s won 24 Grammy Awards and released numerous critically acclaimed platinum records. But he hasn’t had a No. 1 hit in years and West’s contract with Def Jam, his longtime record producer, expired last year.

There are also demands for his music catalog to be culled by streaming services, although his passionate fan base is unlikely to back him up – more than 90 million streams per week in the US over the past last month, nearly four billion streams so far this year, according to tracking service Luminate. But its radio airplay dropped about 22% in a month, as reported by The New York Times.

It’s entirely possible that Ye will recover and bounce back from this latest fiasco. There will no doubt be sympathy – and apologies – for someone who identified as bipolar, hospitalized with mental health issues in 2016, breaking down dramatically on occasions he admitted to having stopped his medication.

But mental illness does not make a person racist or anti-Semitic. Psychotically delirious in the street, perhaps, harmless except in the rarest cases.

You are fully convincing, the harm he has caused is immeasurable. And, of too many bold headliners in overlapping celebrity orbits: Crickets.

Said Abdul-Jabbar: “There are people who condemn Kanye and there are people who did not intervene. We find out who they are.

Rosie DiManno is a Toronto-based columnist who covers sports and current affairs for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno

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