Former Chicago Bulls & LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson’s 2020 ‘bubble’ comments display his vast political immaturity.

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( For several reasons, the year 2020 was one of the most incredible, historic years in U.S. history. It was a unique year that could be defined by “three P’s”: Pandemic, Protest, and Politicians. Countless numbers of lives were affected by those “three P’s” in 2020 and continue to be affected today. It was nearly impossible in 2020 to avoid any or all of those areas in day to day conversations with friends, family, or just the common person. Because professional sports reflect society, the pandemic, protests, and politicians in 2020 had a major impact on professional sports.

One of the more notable ways 2020 left an imprint on a professional sports league was the National Basketball Association’s decision to play out it’s 2019-20 regular season and playoffs in an isolated “bubble” at Walt Disney World in Florida to protect its players from the COVID-19 pandemic. The NBA players didn’t just play in the “bubble” as due to worldwide uprisings due to the high-profile murders of unarmed Africans George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the NBA agreed to let players wear slogans such as “Peace” and “Black Lives Matter” on the back of their jerseys instead of their names during the bubble in 2020 as a show of support for fighting racial injustice in the U.S.

Former Chicago Buls & LA Lakers Coach Phil Jackson

During a recent podcast, Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, did not reflect fondly to those slogans on the jerseys in 2020. Jackson said, “It was trying to cater to an audience or trying to bring a certain audience to the game,” he said, “and they didn’t know it was turning other people off. People want to see sports as non-political.” The flaws of observing professional sports leagues as non-political will continue to have to be reiterated as foolish and myopic. It is safe to say that Phil Jackson, in his several decades of life on Earth, likely came across famed writer George Orwell’s work at some point. Even Orwell noted that, “In our age there is no such thing as “keeping out of politics.” All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”

It is more troubling that Phil Jackson, who could make a case as the greatest NBA head coach of all-time, found such issues with African/Black NBA players wearing jerseys with slogans and phrases that weren’t polarizing at all. The idea that putting “Justice” on the back of a sports jersey is controversial to Jackson in response to the climate of 2020 speaks volumes to his view on the world. Although Jackson clearly cannot relate to how many African/Black people felt about the murders of Floyd and Taylor, you would think that his decades alongside Black men in the NBA as a former player and longtime head coach would give him better insight into Black men beyond the ability of some to put a basketball into a hoop at a high level.

Ironically, Phil Jackson’s resume as the greatest NBA head coach of his generation could be challenged by longtime San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Popovich has been vocal about “political” issues for a longtime and in 2020 he unsurprisingly had a lot to say about the worldwide protests and the political climate, “The thing that strikes me is that we all see this police violence and racism, and we’ve seen it all before, but nothing changes. That’s why these protests have been so explosive. But without leadership and an understanding of what the problem is, there will never be change. And white Americans have avoided reckoning with this problem forever, because it’s been our privilege to be able to avoid it. That also has to change.” Phil Jackson doesn’t have to take a page from Gregg Popovich, Jackson has a lot to learn about valuing African/Black life that does not play in the NBA and doesn’t benefit him and his bank account directly.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines