Jackson was a recent guest on Rick Rubin’s podcast, Tetragrammaton. During the episode, the Montana native was asked if he still watched basketball, and he responded, “No, I don’t.” Instead, he shared how players using their platforms to take a stand against inequality by putting “slogans” on their jerseys — following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and worldwide protests — was light and funny to his grandchildren, but not so much to him.
“I watched some of the game evolve and decided. … They went into the lockout year, and they did something that was kind of wanky. They did a bubble down in Orlando, and all the teams that could qualify went down here and stayed down there,” he told Rubin. “And they had things on their back like justice. I mean, a little funny thing like justice just went to the basket, and equal opportunity just knocked him down,” the Hall of Famer said.
He continued, “So my grandkids thought it was pretty funny to play up those names, so I couldn’t watch that.”
Jackson said he believes sports should focus on the game, not things off the court. In addition, he thinks the NBA didn’t realize it would lose viewers when it let players use their First Amendment right to support social justice conversations.
“They even had slogans on the floor and on the baseline. It was catering; it was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience into play. They didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as nonpolitical,” the 77-year-old said. “They [politics] don’t need to be there.”
When sports analyst and former NBA player Rose caught wind of Jackson’s comments, he said he was shocked and furious. He released a video on his social media calling out Jackson for his comments after Black athletes were the ones who kept money in his pockets by giving him a job to do.
“You’re sitting up watching the game with your grandkids, and y’all think it’s funny when justice passes the ball to equal opportunity. When somebody shows them who they are, believe them. So stop watching, forever,” Rose said.