After 20 years of public degradation, Kwame Brown is fed up
“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. The press is so powerful in its image-making role." - Malcolm X
I didn’t want to touch on any of this. I even tweeted that I was going to mind my business on this.
However, since Kwame Brown posted that first video on his IG account (plus additional videos on IG Live and his YouTube page "Bust Life"), there have been multiple media outlets that have reached out to me to inquire if I would come on their show. They wanted me to get in the middle of what was going on with Kwame and Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes, and my answer has consistently been an adamant, "No." I told them that they were not going to use me to fan the flames of this beef. When I first caught wind of it, I immediately tweeted that I hated seeing good Brothas beef to this level over something that could’ve (and should’ve) been fixed with a phone call, and I still stand by that.
I also have a lot of respect for all of them. I am still amazed at all of the work that Stephen Jackson has done around the world after George Floyd was murdered. I’ve interviewed both Stak and Matt for my show, "The Rematch," and for my new book on white supremacy and police brutality that I’m currently putting the finishing touches on (shout out to Haymarket Books). Kwame and I have been friends since we were teammates with the Washington Wizards for four seasons, so I have always been in his corner. I immediately ordered some shirts from his clothing line for me and my son. (We got "Momma’s Cooking" and "My Momma’s Son" shirts).
I support all of these Brothas. I do believe they will eventually reach peace in their own time and show all of the world how Brothas can resolve differences peacefully, and then, maybe even work together and achieve something that Pac and Biggie never got the chance to do. Again, I fully believe that will happen in time. And when they do squash the beef and make peace, I want to hear all of the media who have been fanning these flames to be just as loud as they are now... but I doubt we will hear a peep out of the media about that. They love to promote drama and infighting, especially with Black people. It gets ratings and that’s why I emphatically told them all, "No." I’m not coming on any of your shows to join you in fanning these flames.
In addition to the media, a lot of NBA executives and former Wizards executives started reaching out to me, saying, "Hey, we know you and Kwame were always friends. You should talk to him." My answer to all of them was, "And say what, exactly? Kwame is a grown man, and y’all are just worried that he’s coming for y’all next. So, no, I am not interested in speaking to Kwame on your behalf."
Kwame has a long list of people in the media who have consistently degraded his image, his family and his reputation. They have attacked him as a man for two decades and he has finally had enough.
It’s like the movie "Kill Bill" when Uma Thurman had the list of all the people who tried to kill her and was crossing them off one-by-one. Well, that’s what Kwame is doing right now. So Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and all those other media people who have assassinated his character for literally 20 years are now feeling the wrath of Kwame Brown.
Many people have asked why I keep bringing up the media and why I'm so anti-media. They say it’s the media’s job to report, and Kwame, Stak and Matt are doing all of this themselves on their own platforms. People say to me, "What about sticks and stones?" and, "Kwame is being too sensitive," and, "The media criticizes all athletes," etc.
Yes, the media’s job is to critique athletes' play. So for instance, if they report that a player isn’t rebounding the ball the way they should or that their defense is lacking or their shot is off or they aren’t playing up to their potential, that’s all fair game.
But when the media attacks someone personally and creates a false narrative about a person’s character and manhood, that’s an entirely different subject. It is done far too often now that media personalities are treated like celebrities and paid salaries comparable to professional athletes. It seems the louder they are and the more negative they are, the more they are rewarded.
With Kwame, it was so much deeper than the media simply “talking bad" about him. The public degradation and the false narratives perpetuated by the media actually hurt Kwame financially, as NBA teams listened to those narratives regardless of whether they were factual or unsubstantiated.
In fact, false narratives kept Carmelo Anthony out of the league for more than a year. NBA teams were scared to touch him. So, yes, Kwame has a valid reason to be upset with the media because they took money out of his pocket with the way those false narratives destroyed his character.
The media could’ve told the story of how he persevered through an impossible situation in DC with Michael Jordan and Doug Collins, and how he fought through unbelievable adversity at 18 years old. They could’ve covered how he never broke despite Collins and Jordan's attempts to break him. Instead, they began broadcasting a false narrative that was detrimental to Kwame when it came time for teams to sign him. It lowered his market value. They remembered what was said. It didn't matter that there were no facts or proof; the rumors that were created by the media impacted these decision-makers.
In one of Kwame’s videos, he briefly mentioned how he was treated in DC and how the situation was set up for him to fail. He also said, "Ask Etan Thomas, he’ll verify everything I’m saying." This led to my phone being flooded with even more calls, so I decided to reach out to a few other former Wizards so we could all verify Kwame's remarks. I brought Jahidi White, Tyrone Nesby and Chris Whitney on my show, "The Rematch," to discuss what we collectively saw. And just for the record: Kwame didn’t exaggerate one bit about how he was treated in DC. In fact, we also recalled a few horror stories that Kwame left out.
But the media didn't tell those factual stories. All they had to do was ask someone who was actually there. I was there and I still asked others for their account. Do some actual investigative work!
But that’s not what they did. And one of the biggest culprits was Stephen A. Smith. There are countless videos -- and I will include a compilation so nobody thinks I’m exaggerating -- of Stephen A. Smith bashing Kwame. He said, “He’s a scrub, he can’t play the game of basketball, he has small hands, he can’t catch the ball, he's got bad feet, he can't really move... he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, he doesn’t have a post move that he can commit to memory, he has no game whatsoever, he plays no defense, he doesn’t have the heart, the passion, or anything that comes with it." He called him a "bust" and constantly called out Kwame's work ethic; for example, he said, "He didn’t work hard in 10 years," and, "[He] never worked and put forth his due diligence." Stephen A. refused to pronounce Kwame's name correctly. He called Kwame “nothing” and actively campaigned for the Knicks not to sign him.
At the end of this compilation, you'll see that there's actual footage of Stephen A. Smith going on a speaking tour to colleges, high schools, and middle schools to continue his public degradation of Kwame. He exploited every opportunity to further these false narratives. He shouted fabrications that were simply baseless. The footage shows him telling college students that Kwame was immature and not ready mentally, emotionally or psychologically.
Now, I’m no lawyer, but I would think that Kwame Brown has a slander case that he could bring against Stephen A. Smith (and a lot of media members) considering how he was defamed, as long as there's no statute of limitations. He would likely win because the proof is readily available.
I remember seeing articles about Kwame not knowing how to order food in a restaurant, which I knew was a lie because me and Kwame went out to eat on the road and he ordered food just fine. There were stories about how he didn’t know how to use dry cleaners. People wrote that he was depressed. Not to mention the pieces about how he was garbage and a bust and shouldn’t be in the NBA. They used words like "worthless" and a "waste." None of that was true or accurate, but that’s the narrative that was constantly repeated over and over and over again until everyone just believed it.
When you repeat something a million times, there will be people who believe it and act accordingly. It shifts their opinion. It’s like brainwashing. And that’s exactly what the media did with Kwame. Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, in particular, did this and there are many others who joined in (and I’m sure Kwame has them on his list). That’s why I told any media member who reached out to me that I had zero interest in talking to Kwame on their behalf.
Media, Former Wizards & NBA Executives: I know you two were friends, you should talk to Kwame— Etan Thomas (@etanthomas36) May 20, 2021
Me: And say what ? This is y’all problem. Looks like he has a long memory & y’all just worried he’s comin for y’all next. Kwame Brown is a grown man. I’mma mind my business on this one
That narrative the media created was used in more ways than a lot of people know. For a large part of my NBA career, I was on the executive board for the Players' Union. I was also part of the negotiating team. I was one of the people whom Billy Hunter consistently included when we sat across from David Stern and the NBA Board of Governors to negotiate the collective bargaining agreement. I remember Stern using Kwame Brown and that same narrative that was broadcasted by Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless and others as a justification as to why we needed to create an age-limit rule. They said that teenagers aren’t mature enough and that Kwame didn’t even know how to order from a restaurant and how much of a “disaster” it was to have young high-school players thrown into the throes of the NBA. He actually quoted the same narrative Stephen A. and others were constantly repeating, and I heard that with my own ears.
Of course, Stern didn’t use the examples of Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Kevin Garnett or LeBron James to show that high-school athletes can successfully make the jump to the NBA. And yes, this position was loaded with hypocrisy. To have no issue with sending an 18-year-old overseas to war but adamantly objecting to them playing in the NBA because they don't have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to handle it is almost laughable. Also, there was no objection for European players turning pro at 13 years old over in Europe (and I never once heard David Stern or anyone else use Darko Milicic’s failures to justify why there should be an age limit for Europeans). They welcomed them with open arms. Stern wanted to expand the NBA worldwide so he wouldn’t say anything against that expansion, but he had no problem using Kwame Brown as the poster child for the age limit.
People always ask me: If you have such an issue with the media, why did you become a member of the media? The reason is because I want to do things differently. One of the main reasons I created "The Rematch" was to give athletes a platform to retell their story. I wanted to give each individual an opportunity to reclaim their image from these false narratives created and spread by the media. My hope is that this makes the media as a whole rethink they way they cover athletes in general moving forward.
To all the media who joined in with Stephen A. Smith, Skip Bayless and others to assassinate the character of Kwame Brown over the last 20 years: Before you say something about him now, you really should think it through -- or the next video he makes might just be about you.