SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- With Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sitting nearby and Bill Russell also at the NBA Awards show, NBA legend Oscar Robertson said he is happy to see LeBron James take an active stance on today's societal issues but called on white athletes to do the same.
Speaking to reporters after he accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award on Monday in Santa Monica, Robertson spoke at length when asked about how his generation of players were engaged in social activism and whether he is proud to see some of today's stars and the NBA try to improve the community.
"I think that as people evolve, and things are changing so much in the world with social media and whatnot, these people are young people who have families," Robertson said. "They've seen some injustice in the streets or wherever it might be, it might be almost anywhere, and they're stepping up. But the only thing that really bothers me is, where are the white athletes when this is happening?
"This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It's all around you. Just because LeBron steps out, I'm glad he does. I hope some other players -- because this is what they believe -- I mean, what do you want players to do? Shut up and dribble? I think it's time for them to say what they want to say about life and about politics and things about the street and whatnot. And about education.
"There are a lot of players donating money back into different colleges. But it seems that what we have today is a system where you don't want players to say anything at all."
Robertson grew up in a segregated housing project in Indianapolis and dealt with racial discrimination and economic inequality. Robertson played in a generation when stars like Abdul-Jabbar and Russell fought for social change and were outspoken about civil rights.
"Years ago, they [athletes] didn't say anything because they couldn't say anything," the 12-time All-Star and former MVP said.
"But now I hope they all, the whites and the blacks get together. Even with the football. What do you think is going to happen when the union gets involved with the owners?
"You think it's going to be settled really easily? No, it's not. It's going to be nothing but a total mess."