THE OUTCAST: CRAIG HODGES

“I was never in trouble for drugs, or guns or raping women or anything like that”Craig Hodges

It takes a special kind of courage to stay connected to our community regardless of wealth or aspirations of power and fame.

To truly be an advocate of the fight for equality and justice, you must never allow what you become outside to replace who you are inside. This is the story of Craig Hodges.

I was never in trouble for drugs, or guns or raping women or anything like that. I just wanted to help my community, and that made me a troublemaker. – Craig Hodges

Craig Hodges is one of two players (Larry Bird) have ever won three consecutive NBA 3-point shooting contests.

When the Chicago Bulls visited the White House after winning the 1992 NBA Championship, Hodges dressed in a dashiki and delivered a hand-written letter addressed to then President George H. W. Bush, expressing his discontent at the administration’s treatment of the poor and minorities.

The White House episode was hardly out of character for Hodges, who frequently took advantage of his exposure to champion political causes.

From that meeting began a series of events which ultimately had Hodges out of a job and to this day, has fans of the sport with many unanswered questions.
Shortly thereafter that same year, The Chicago Bulls cut him and he wasn’t signed by another team. Actually, he wasn’t even invited to camp for any of the remaining 26 teams, either.

The Bulls’ position was that he was an aging back-up point guard who could not play defense. The following season they sign two defensive liabilities both of whom did not shoot like Hodges.

Then Head coach Phil Jackson said, “I also found it strange that not a single team called to inquire about him.

Usually, I get at least one call about a player we’ve decided not to sign. And yes, he couldn’t play much defense, but a lot of guys in the league can’t, but not many can shoot from his range, either (Granderson.)”

“Do I think the league had it out for me? You tell me…”  “I was outspoken, but I wasn’t disrespectful,” he says.” “I played for Tex Winter for four years at Long Beach State,” Hodges said.

“I knew the triangle offense better than Phil Jackson.” “No one would take my calls, no one would give me a chance. I went from helping a team win it all, to all of a sudden not being good enough to play for the worst team in the league.

Hodges continues, “I asked Jesse Jackson to help me and he wouldn’t, I asked Johnnie Cochran to represent me and he wouldn’t.”

Hodges also criticized Michael Jordan for not using his fame to draw attention to social and political issues, and said Jordan was “bailing out” for not being politically outspoken.

In 1996, Hodges filed a $40 million lawsuit against the NBA citing the reason they blackballed him was for his association with Louis Farrakhan, criticizing other African-American professional athletes and for his activism.

It is suspect at a minimum that Hodges failed to attract any offers after the 1992 season. In addition, reports of team backing out because of what may have been intimidation and an attempt to blacklist him from the league for his politics.

The racial dynamics of the NBA are unusual: 80 percent of the players on the court are black, while 80 percent of the fans in the stands are white (ESPN).
Hodges stood up to the status quo and fought for something he believed in.

He further believed in accountability as a professional athlete and an obligation to give back to the community. Our community respects and appreciates the efforts of Hodges and many like him who continue to stand up for justice, equality and social activism.

Maybe we may never know truly the motives of the NBA during that time period. However, we should look inside ourselves and demand more when it comes to preservation of our communities. It is our duty. Hodges felt that way, we should too.

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