Former NBA coach and executive Phil Jackson wants everyone to know he didn't mean anything derogatory when he said in April he stopped watching basketball after the 2020 season because of slogans on players' jerseys.
The Hall of Famer told the "Stacey King’s Gimme The Hot Sauce” podcast this week that when he said he didn't like seeing players with slogans such as "Justice" or "Equal Opportunity" on the backs of their jerseys instead of their names, he meant it only in a humorous sense.
“I don’t think people got the humor of the names are on the back of the players that were in the bubble," Jackson said, "because if you apply them to defending and challenging and going to the hoop, and you use those monikers that were on the names, it had a funny aspect to it. That’s just what I was bringing up to the kids. Visually, this is kind of humorous.
“I had nothing against BLM [Black Lives Matter] or the cause that was behind it. The humorous nature of going completely woke by the NBA really was like, it’s pretty hard to watch.”
The NBA allowed players to put words and phrases on the backs of their jerseys in a show of support for the fight against systemic racism in the United States. That came after massive protests across the country following the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, and the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, in 2020.
Jackson, 77, told the "Tetragrammaton" podcast with Rick Rubin that he thought the NBA was "trying to cater to an audience" with this move and believed "it was turning other people off" to the sport.
"People want to see sports as non-political," he said. "Politics stays out of the game; it doesn't need to be there."
Jackson won 11 NBA titles as a coach with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, for which he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. He also played in the NBA for 12 years and was the president of the New York Knicks from 2014-17.