Longtime NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick says at least some of the criticism leveled against black superstars who have reshaped the league through their free agency maneuverings is rooted partly in racism.
LeBron James' and Kevin Durant's high-profile forays into free agency, in 2011 and 2016 respectively, were met with massive backlash when they left the teams that had drafted them for greener pastures.
But the response might have been different if James and Durant were white, Redick told Taylor Rooks on Bleacher Report's "Take It There" podcast.
“So, Kevin Durant in 2016 when he joined the Warriors. LeBron, when he makes 'The Decision.' There’s always this group of fans that want to make the argument, ‘Oh, he took the easy way out. He went and joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami.' Or, 'He went and joined a team that had just beat him in the playoffs.' ... But I think an underlying reason for the reaction to Kevin and LeBron making those decisions, is because people were uncomfortable with powerful black men making a decision for themselves. I really believe that."
James was ripped for leaving his hometown Cavs for a first time nearly a decade ago, famously "taking his talents to South Beach," as he put it. Bitter Cleveland fans burned his jersey, and many in the national media panned the moved, as well as the self-aggrandizing announcement which was televised on ESPN.
Durant's move to join the two-time champion Golden State Warriors in 2016 wasn't quite as anticipated as the James sweepstakes in 2011, but leaving the Thunder for one of their chief rivals after falling barely short of glory several times didn't sit well with many fans and pundits.
Redick, who said he grew up in an alternative lifestyle "in the sticks" with "hippie" parents before settling in the area of Roanoke, Virginia, said basketball opened his eyes to how black Americans are treated differently from their white counterparts.
As a teen in AAU ball, travelling with black teammates for road trips made Redick realize how something as minor as buying food at a shopping mall is a totally different experience for black people.
"You can sense it, you can feel it," Redick said.
Redick said he is trying to speak out more after watching the tragic death of George Floyd.
"It's horrific. It's emotional, it's raw, it's visceral. It makes you sick to your stomach, when you see what happened to George Floyd. That first week especially, when the emotions were so raw, I cried multiple times.
"And it seemed like every time you went on Twitter or turned on the news, it felt like that moment when the officer is kneeling on him, and he's saying 'I can't breathe.' And you saw the look in the officer's eyes, and the thing I kept going back to is, like, 'this mother----r thinks he's going to get away with it. He thinks there's no repercussions to this.'"