Jabari Parker has realized his platform and is starting to find his voice.
Typically soft-spoken and modest, at least in interviews, the Bucks’ 21-year-old forward has recently become more vocal and begun taking a more opinionated stand on racial issues, in particular violence against African-Americans.
On Tuesday night, Parker became the first NBA player to publicly come out in support of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, wearing the suddenly top-selling San Francisco 49ers No. 7 jersey in an Instagram post with the caption, "Never followed the wave but this one is necessary. I got your back homie @kaepernick7."
Kaepernick sat down before the pregame playing of the national anthem during the preseason in protest of racial oppression in America, a demonstration that gained widespread notice when he did it Aug. 26 against the Green Bay Packers. After that game, Kaepernick, who is from Milwaukee, said, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Parker is the latest professional athlete to stand up for Kaepernick’s stand-down, joining U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe and Seattle Seahawks cornerback Jeremy Lane, among others, who’ve protested the anthem.
Going into his third NBA season – the Bucks’ training camp begins in three weeks – Parker has gotten more outspokenly involved in social issues. On July 8, he offered his support on social media to Barack Obama, after the president had received a threatening tweet from conservative radio host Joe Walsh.
Then on Aug. 15, he wrote a first-person column for The Players’ Tribune about growing up in a poor, high-crime neighborhood in Chicago, the violence he witnessed as a kid and how he plans to give back and have a positive influence on his hometown.
Though surely written in advance, that column came less than 48 hours after a police-involved killing of a black man in Milwaukee sparked protests in Sherman Park, including the burning-down of a local gas station, and has since ignited conversations – like our Milwaukee Talks Race series – about racial issues and structural problems in the city. No doubt, Parker was paying attention to the unrest in the highly segregated – and sometimes overtly racist – city in which he plays professional basketball.
Parker, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is a Bucks fan favorite not only for his exciting play on the court, but also his community involvement and likable personality off it. After averaging 14.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last year, Parker will make nearly $6.8 million this season and is hoping to become a breakout star along with Giannis Antetokounmpo in Milwaukee.
The Bucks did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
Born in Milwaukee but a product of Shorewood High School (go ‘Hounds!) and Northwestern University (go ‘Cats!), Jimmy never knew the schoolboy bliss of cheering for a winning football, basketball or baseball team. So he ditched being a fan in order to cover sports professionally - occasionally objectively, always passionately. He's lived in Chicago, New York and Dallas, but now resides again in his beloved Brew City and is an ardent attacker of the notorious Milwaukee Inferiority Complex.
After interning at print publications like Birds and Blooms (official motto: "America's #1 backyard birding and gardening magazine!"), Sports Illustrated (unofficial motto: "Subscribe and save up to 90% off the cover price!") and The Dallas Morning News (a newspaper!), Jimmy worked for web outlets like CBSSports.com, where he was a Packers beat reporter, and FOX Sports Wisconsin, where he managed digital content. He's a proponent and frequent user of em dashes, parenthetical asides, descriptive appositives and, really, anything that makes his sentences longer and more needlessly complex.
Jimmy appreciates references to late '90s Brewers and Bucks players and is the curator of the unofficial John Jaha Hall of Fame. He also enjoys running, biking and soccer, but isn't too annoying about them. He writes about sports - both mainstream and unconventional - and non-sports, including history, music, food, art and even golf (just kidding!), and welcomes reader suggestions for off-the-beaten-path story ideas.