After spending 10 years in the NBA, Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith now has a second career as an NBA analyst for the ‘NBA on TNT.’ In July, he issued a challenge to Black players in the NBA to donate 10% of their earnings to Black communities, in order to give financial power and political leverage to low-income communities. In a radio interview, The Jet says “the system doesn’t work” for Black people. In the interview, he says police attitudes towards Black drivers need to change and he has offered a solution to the racial disparities plaguing the country. The Jet says the players in the league have the financial means to change the lives of those in the communities from where they came.
During an interview on the Tiki and Tierney radio show, one of the host, Brandon Tierney says there are bad officers, but says Black people should “begin accepting the authority and not [fight] police when they’re pulled over.” Tierney simplistically said he hands over his license without conflict. But The Jet explained to him, that’s what Philando Castile did in Falcon Heights, Minneapolis and he was still shot & killed after reaching for his wallet to give the police officer his license. The Jet explained, “There is a disparity. Before we can get to that point, I think there’s a bigger issue of fear. Not even fear. I think there’s a thought process that a lot of police officers have that, to diffuse a situation with young Black Americans, it’s easier to diffuse the situation by force.”
Kenny Smith pointed out that Black people make up only 6% of the American population but as of July 2016, 114 of the 558 (21%) people killed by the police so far this year are Black. He said he doesn’t think it’s the Black community’s job to improve trust between the police and the community. The Jet says, “If you look at all the statistics, you go, ‘We don’t trust the police. We’re going to get arrested because [we’re] in a poor neighborhood. Because when you’re poor, if you don’t pay a ticket, you go to jail. If you’re rich, you just pay the ticket. It’s really a poor social economic as well as Black problem. They have to acknowledge that this is not right. The system doesn’t work.”
The Jet wants to put economic power into Black neighborhoods and he’s calling on NBA players to allocate 10% of their salaries towards the Black communities where they’re from. Black men account for 74% of the players in the league. So in a league where $90 million per team per year per salary cap goes towards Black men, that’s almost $67 million going directly into the hands of Black men. He doesn’t think it’s too much to ask because “Think of the agent. Ten percent and this dude just makes a phone call. He makes a phone call.”
“So now you can make a social-economic impact. Which creates empowerment and creates education and opportunities that allow you to skip past all of the things that go on for a big group. I think that’s the responsibility,” he said emphatically.