Craig Hodges—a Chicago native—played in the NBA for 10 seasons, in which he led the league in three-point shooting percentage three times. He won two NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls in 1991 and 1992, and is a three-time Three Point Contest champion at All-Star weekend.
The Bulls were invited to the White House following their first championship. During the visit, Hodges, who dressed in a dashiki for the event to draw attention to his African heritage, gave a handwritten letter to George H.W. Bush. The letter urged the president to do more to fight racism and economic inequality in the United States. Hodges’s decision to speak truth to power at the White House ranks among the most significant political acts by a professional athlete in sports history.
Following the visit to the White House, Hodges regularly called on his fellow athletes—as he did with Michael Jordan in The New York Times in the wake of the Rodney King beatings—to speak out on racism and poverty. He is nearly finished writing his memoir, which is expected to be released in the fall of 2016.
Dave Zirin: Last week the Chicago police department was forced to release a dashcam video of police officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times as the teen attempted to flee. On December 7, the US Department of Justice announced it will open a wide-ranging civil-rights investigation into the Chicago Police Department after examining police reports from the officers on the scene that conflict with that video.
What is your reaction to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Superintendent Garry McCarthy and State’s Attorney Anitia Alvarez decision to sit on the tape for 400 days?
Craig Hodges: This is a clear miscarriage of justice and is emblematic of how corrupt our system is, regardless of who is in office, Democrat or Republican. It also shows that we can’t trust the police to police themselves. If it wasn’t for the work of a tenacious reporter and, more importantly, the effort of the Black Lives Matter movement, we would have never seen this tape. Black Lives Matter has cast a bright light on police violence and corruption here in Chicago and across the nation. The violence committed by the police on people of color is not a new thing in this country. Unfortunately, it took a large movement, a riot in Baltimore, and an endless number of YouTube videos to give it the attention it deserves. I’m inspired by this movement. I am looking forward to seeing it to grow and develop.
DZ: Emmanuel has called for calm and healing since the tape was released. In light of the fact that he and his former police superintendent, Garry McCarthy, tried to bury the Van Dyke tape, do you think he’s in a position to ask anything of the black community at this point?