Los Angeles Lakers shooting guard Kobe Bryant and several of his teammates wore "I Can't Breathe" shirts prior to Tuesday's game against the Kings, joining the a growing number of NBA players who have worn the shirt to honor deceased New Yorker Eric Garner.
On Wednesday morning, Bryant addressed his decision to wear the shirt:
"I think it's us supporting that movement, and supporting each other, as well as athletes. I think the beauty of our country lies in its democracy. I think if we ever lose the courage to be able to speak up for things that we believe in, I think we really lose the value that our country stands for. It's important that we have our opinions, it's important that we stand up for what we believe in. We all don't have to agree with it, and that's completely fine, that's what makes this a beautiful country."
When asked whether he felt the need to research or study the situation before making a public statement:
"I didn't have to research or study too much to look at the video. Pretty self-explanatory."
Kobe also responded to a question specifically regarding race and the demographics of NBA players.
"For this, I don't think any at all, actually. I think it would be a serious disservice to limit this to a race issue. It's a justice issue."
The future Hall of Famer finished by noting that the Garner case and subsequent public reaction could be a "tipping point" for society.
"You're kind of seeing a tipping point right now, in terms of these social issues that go. It's become at the forefront now, as opposed to just being a local issue. It's really something that's carried over now, that's spilled into mainstream. When you turn on the TV, when you watch the news, when you follow things on social media, you don't just see African-Americans out there protesting. That's not just something you see in the United States of America, it's become a global thing. It's become a thing where people really standing up for their rights and really questioning the justice system and questioning the process of the legal system and those who have authority and whether or not they're abusing authority and where's the threshold to use deadly force and so forth and so on. But that's what our nation is founded on, we believe in questioning things here in a peaceful fashion. That's what makes this a great country is we have the ability to voice up, we have the platform to speak up and we have the platform to affect change."