Giving Respect When It’s Due: Why We Need More Joakim Noah’s in our Community

Let me first say that I actually do not like Joakim Noah, the son of World Class Tennis player Yannick Noah, for a few reasons all of yannick-noahwhich begin and end with his play on the Basketball Court. My unsettled anger began after I witnessed the aforementioned Noah aid his Florida Gators win back-to-back NCAA National Championships, the last one over my beloved Ohio State Buckeyes by a score of 84 – 75; a contest I might add that the Greg Oden and Michael Conley led Buckeyes entered ranked No.1 in the nation.

Let’s be clear, my dislike of Noah is totally sports related, I don’t know him personally. Anyway, away from the hardwood floor I have found Joakim Noah to be a ‘breath of fresh’ air in regards to his athletic peers. Although he is not very boastful regarding the social and political causes that are important to him, those who have paid any attention to Noah’s activist career have found him to be particularly courageous, intelligent, and in possession of a keen insight. Put simply, Joakim Noah, whose foundation Noah’s Arc is committed to addressing gun violence throughout the nation, could be considered the anti-Jordan in regards to championing social causes; meaning that he has been everything that Jordan refused to be during his playing days.

It is my understanding of Noah’s propensity to occupy principled positions on important political issues and social matters that took much of the shock regarding his recent refusal to participate in a recent dinner at West Point Military Academy, the locale of the New York Knicks training camp. The alluded to dinner featured not only current cadets but also a speech that sought to align the lessons that a former colonel learned during war with the game of basketball. Noah, an individual who publicly opposes all forms of war, particularly those that call for young people to kill one another, shared that he held “mixed feelings” regarding even being at West Point Military Academy.

According to ESPN.COM Noah shared the following,

“It’s hard for me a little bit. I have a lot of respect for the kids who are out here fighting. But it’s hard for me to understand why we have to go to war, why kids have to kill kids around the world. So I have mixed feelings about being here. I’m very proud of this country. I love America but I just don’t understand kids killing kids around the world…At the end of the day, I’m not anti-troops. It’s just not comfortable for me to see kids going out to war and coming back having seen what they’ve seen, having done what they’ve done. It’s sad for me. It’s sad for me because they’re just sent out for things that I don’t really want to get into it to be honest with you. It’s hard for me.”

As I related above, I doubt that I will ever forgive Noah for what he did to my Ohio State Buckeyes during the 2007 NCAA Championship Game, however, such a petty disdain does not preclude me from tipping my hat to this brother and wishing that we had tens-of-thousands, if not millions more just like him fighting for a principled cause.

According to Noah, there is plenty of room for others to select a cause that they are passionate about. “I think there’s a lot of topics that definitely need to be more than addressed…it’s great athletes are taking a stand. But it has to be about more than that. This country’s out of control. Kids killing kids.”

It is his commitment to being proactive and addressing pressing issues within our community that leads me to not only salute Joakim Noah, but also hope that others, regardless of their notoriety, fame and fortune, follow his lead and use their own platform in a similarly progressive manner.

Go Bucks!!!!!!! — I may respect him, but I still roll with my Buckeyes. OH-IO

Dr. James Thomas Jones III

© Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016

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