Back in his playing days, Craig Hodges was a widely respected basketball player. He played ten seasons in the NBA, winning two championships with the Chicago Bulls. He’s credited as one of the best all-time 3-point shooters, having led the league twice and retiring with a career 40% from beyond the arc. Hodges was known for his proficiency in the NBA All-Star 3-point contest, winning three consecutive times from 1990-1992. He holds the record for most shots made in a row (19), and is tied for most points scored in a single round (25). He was simply lights out!
However, Hodges’ career involved much more than just draining threes. While still in the NBA, Hodges' was very active in regards to social justice issues. Arriving at the White House following the Bulls’ ’92 championship wearing a traditional West African robe, Hodges' hand delivered a letter to then President George H. W. Bush detailing what he saw to be wrong with America. Many (Hodges' included) believe that this is the reason he was cut by the Bulls prior to the following season, never to play in the NBA again. It seemed that his stance on issues off the court was what led to his demise on the court, as he was still arguably a quality player.
Yet Craig Hodges was more than just a one-trick pony. Despite no longer being in the NBA, he continued his fight against social injustice. He has maintained a strong vocal stance on social issues in the United States for the last several decades, particularly race. His efforts have been so relentless towards solving issues that he was acknowledged this Martin Luther King Jr. day by TNT. (Up to 5:28)
Some believe Hodges was stubborn to risk his basketball career by voicing his thoughts on social issues. However, hindsight is 20/20 and Hodges never thought that his career would be put into jeopardy for simply expressing his beliefs. He learned to be active on societal issues by watching those that came before him. One of the first times that athletes spoke out on non-sports related topics took place in the in 1967, at a summit featuring Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
While it may have been rare for those in the sports industry to take on social activism in the past, many athletes have done so recently. Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the U.S anthem springs to mind, but many Seattle Seahawks players (such as Richard Sherman and Doug Baldwin) have been vocal as well. One of sports’ most prominent figures, LeBron James, continuously shares his thoughts on current events.
Craig Hodges used his position as a professional athlete to raise awareness for issues in society that he thought were important enough to merit discussion. While he may not have received proper support for his activism in his playing days, Hodges impact can be seen today every time an athlete steps up to discuss their beliefs regarding social issues and injustices.