PHILADELPHIA — Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar brought his endorsement of Hillary Clinton—and his strong condemnation of Donald Trump—to the last night of the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
“I’m Michael Jordan,” he introduced himself at Philly’s Wells Fargo Center.
“I say that because I know Donald Trump couldn’t tell the difference.”
He went on to discuss the 14 Muslim-American soldiers who have died in service to the United States since the 9/11 attacks.
“Donald Trump’s idea, to register Muslims…is the very tyranny that [Thomas] Jefferson abhorred,” he continued, also slamming the “religious freedom acts” signed into law and championed by such figures as Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate.
“Discrimination is the result of fear [and] those who think Americans scare easily…underestimate our resolve,” Abdul-Jabbar said.
“Not here, not ever,” he concluded in his brief remarks.
The Democratic Party’s four-day nominating event has been stacked with star power and talent courtesy of liberal Hollywood. And in terms of choosing celebrities to appear on-stage, Abdul-Jabbar was a no-brainer.
The retired basketball star has long had close, friendly ties to the Clintons. In 2012, then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced Abdul-Jabbar’s official appointment as a U.S. cultural ambassador, making him the first sports figure to be given the title during the Obama years.
Later that year, when Abdul-Jabbar’s statue was unveiled at Staples Center, Bill Clinton sent over a videotaped personal message for the ceremony. In 2013, the basketball icon headed to the Clinton Library to help fundraise for the Arkansas School for Math and Science. And in April of this year, he publicly endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
“This election truly is a choice between hell and reason, and I want the best, most-qualified candidate to ensure that the United States lands on the right side of that battle,” he wrote for The Washington Post. “In Clinton we have a proven warrior who has both the commitment and record of accomplishment to lead the fight.”
The political hell to which Abdul-Jabbar referred is personified in this election by Donald J. Trump, a man Abdul-Jabbar clearly despises and has even compared to the so-called Islamic State.
“Trump is ISIS’s greatest triumph: the perfect Manchurian Candidate who, instead of offering specific and realistic policies, preys on the fears of the public, doing ISIS’s job for them,” Abdul-Jabbar (who is Muslim) wrote in Time magazine. “Even fellow Republican Jeb Bush acknowledged Trump’s goal is ‘to manipulate people’s angst and fears’ … While Trump is not slaughtering innocent people, he is exploiting such acts of violence to create terror here to coerce support. As I have written before, his acts could be interpreted as hate crimes. “
Abdul-Jabbar, who has also called Trump the “Milli Vanilli of politics,” has repeatedly denounced the Republican presidential candidate’s comments and policy proposals throughout the campaign. Upon learning of Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim immigration, he likened the real-estate mogul to a “James Bond super-villain.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s remarks and articles attacking Trump and Trumpism soon caught the eye of the man himself.
“Now I know why the press always treated you so badly—they couldn’t stand you,” Trump wrote in a letter to Abdul-Jabbar, following the publication of one of the sports figure’s Washington Post op-eds. “The fact is that you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again!”
As of Thursday night, Abdul-Jabbar has the last word, at least for the moment, as the Trump campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the six-time champion’s latest slams of the former reality-show host.