While basketball fans mourn Kobe Bryant's sudden passing, others demonstrate inadvertent racism when speaking of the basketball legend's death. The BBC ran a photo of LeBron James instead of Bryant when reporting on Bryant's helicopter crash. Sure, they played on the team, but they don't even look alike. The BBC apologized for the mistake, calling it "human error." But it's hard not to think the human error being committed was the error of being racist.
During his life, Bryant spoke out against racism. Just before his passing, Bryant spoke to CNN at a Major League Soccer event and opened up about the racism he saw while living in Italy between the ages of six to 13. Bryant's father, Joe Bryant, played professional basketball for various teams in Italy, and Bryant became fluent in Italian. Unfortunately, he was exposed to hate. "When I was growing up in Italy, I've obviously witnessed it first-hand going to certain soccer matches and things of that nature," Bryant told CNN. "My parents have taught me and educated me on how to deal with those sorts of things."
Recently, Italian soccer league Serie A came under fire for the "No-to-Racism" campaign posters featuring the faces of monkeys as a way to somehow deter racism, while simultaneously being super racist. Go figure, it inspired even more racial slurs and people threw bananas at black players. Serie A apologized for the incredibly inappropriate posters.
But racism isn't something that we have to live with, and Bryant advocated education as a way to combat racism. "It's always education and understanding that racism is a thing that's been a part of our culture for a while," Bryant told CNN. "Even though now we've come such a long way but there's still so much to be done and I think education is always the most important thing."
Bryant pointed to other sports legends as inspirations, legends who are remembered for their amazing accomplishments in addition to the barriers that they broke. "I think speaking up and taking a stand, a significant stand [is important]," Bryant told CNN. "Looking at various muses that have handled things extremely well, from Jackie Robinson to Bill Russell and so forth and so on, so I think education is very important."
Italy is kinder to Bryant after his passing. "All of the NBA players are important, because they're legends, but he's particularly important to us because he knew Italy so well, having lived in several cities here," Italian federation president Giovanni Petrucci told the Associated Press. "He had a lot of Italian qualities. He spoke Italian very well. He even knew the local slang."
RIP, Kobe. You will be missed.
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