Craig Hodges: Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson nixed ‘extreme’ idea of Rodney King protest during NBA Finals

August 31, 2020

Craig Hodges was on the Chicago Bulls during the 1991 NBA Finals months after White Los Angeles police officers were caught beating Rodney King.

Hodges told CBS Sports on Sunday that he broached the idea of conducting a protest to teammates and his Los Angeles Lakers opponents, but it was “dismissed” by the likes of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson.

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“I knew the answer before I went to them. What’s funny to me, is how quick they dismissed it,” Hodges said. “Both conversations lasted less than two minutes. Magic was coming on the court the day before the first game, and I asked him about it and he tells me ‘It’s too extreme.’ I already discussed it with Mike in the locker room, and he tells me, ‘Man, that’s wild, man.’ So it’s not anything I haven’t faced before.”

Hodges said his career ended early because of his criticism of Jordan for not speaking out on social justice issues. Hodges was out of the NBA after the 1992 season.

The officers involved in the King incident were later acquitted, which sparked riots in 1992.

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In June, Hodges told “The No-Sports Report” podcast he talked to Jordan about protesting.

“But, you know, for me it was one of those things where I had talked to Michael [Jordan] about opening up the same manufacturing we have overseas in America, and that’s being able to produce shoes and stuff here, and that’s the part that I felt like we kind of missed the boat,” Hodges said on the podcast. “And as far as the 1991 championship on both levels, Chicago and Los Angeles, two of the biggest media markets — what would’ve happened if we would have said, we want to have a work stoppage and we want to change the conditions of police and civilians?

“But at that period of time, I was asking us to boycott in order to create some type of an ownership, black ownership within the league, having a league look reflective on the ownership level to what was on the court,” Hodges added.

“And it continues today. You know, I seen yesterday, where the league is talking about some type of racial justice committee or whatever. I’m glad to see that. Hopefully, they’ll bring in Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf and myself and other players who I’m sure feel like they have been castigated in the past.”

In 2017, Hodges spoke to The Guardian about the fight for social justice, and he said that he thought the basketball stars in his day were “caught up in individual branding rather than a unified movement.”

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In his book, “Longshot: The Triumphs and Struggles of an NBA Freedom Fighter,” Hodges wrote that he told Jordan and Johnson that the Bulls and Lakers should sit out the opening game, so “we would stand in solidarity with the black community while calling out racism and economic inequality in the NBA, where there were no black owners and almost no black coaches despite the fact that 75 percent of the players in the league were African-American.”

Jordan told Hodges he was “crazy” while Johnson said: “That’s too extreme, man.”

“What’s happening to our people in this country is extreme,” Hodges replied at the time.

Fox News’ Dan Canova contributed to this report.