NBA star and social activist Abdul-Jabbar to lecture at Hancher


Hancher Auditorium’s ribbon cutting ceremony and open tour takes place in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday September 9th, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Anthony Vazquez)

NBA star and activist Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will visit Hancher at 3 p.m. March 25 for a discussion on activism and sports.

The event will be moderated by Melissa Shivers, the UI vice president for Student Life, and is free and open to the public.

Abdul-Jabbar played for the Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers during the 1970s and ’80s. Since then, he has become a social activist. He has written books and memoirs, and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016. He will discuss the condition of America, including such items as STEM education, Colin Kaepernick, and race relations, said Ben Hyland, the chair of the University Lecture Committee.

“In inviting him to the University of Iowa to receive the Distinguished Lecturer Award, the Lecture Committee hopes to promote conversations about social issues that have unfolded in the past year and get people talking about ways our country can unite,” Hyland said.

Abdul-Jabbar said he learned he wanted to be an activist when he was a student in college, when the Voting Rights Act and Civil Rights Act were passed. He said that when he began protesting at UCLA in the late-1960s, people asked him why he was doing it, if he was going to be in the NBA and have a good job that makes money.

“What about my family? What about my community? Across the nation, black Americans were being denied the very most fundamental aspects of U.S. citizenship,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That’s something that occurred whether those people were professional athletes or not. That argument is not valid at all. That’s the argument of someone who wants to change the subject.”

When it comes to basketball, Abdul-Jabbar said playing on a team has taught him lessons that stick with him still today.

“I think being a basketball player really helped me absorb the lessons of working with other people and giving them a chance to do their thing while I did my thing,” he said. “The coordination of talent that has to occur when you’re on a team, I think, is a very important lesson for life.”

Abdul-Jabbar also began the Skyhook Foundation, which aims to bring STEM opportunities to underprivileged children.

“We saw that all of the great jobs that will be out there in the 21st century will be related to STEM subjects,” he said. “So, because of that, we wanted to try to turn kids on to STEM subjects while they’re still open to it. They’ve found that before a certain age, kids are open to it, and then after let say, sixth grade, 97 percent of girls and 92 percent of boys really don’t care about the STEM subjects.”

Hancher Executive Director Chuck Swanson said he hopes that audience members will learn about acceptance and openness during the lecture.

“One of my favorite words ever is facilitate. And I think that word really opens up so many opportunities,” Swanson said. “Facilitate wonderful great things to happen.”

Abdul-Jabbar said he hopes young people wanting to get involved with activism should be patient and always give the other side a chance.

“I hope people get an idea of how they can start a dialogue,” he said. “I think that’s what it’s all about. If we can’t talk to each other, we can’t make that progress that we need to make.”

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