When most people retire, they travel the world. They settle down and relax. They hang out on a beach with a refreshing drink highly saturated with alcohol. But not Shaquille O’Neal. He’s too busy trying to transform law enforcement—a system of power in the U.S. in need of a complete overhaul.
That’s right, Shaq is planning on running for sheriff in Henry County Georgia.
In 2015, the retired basketball player and actor bought a home in the area. He is a studio analyst for both TNT and NBA TV, both based in Atlanta. He initially told The Washington Post he wanted to run for sheriff in Orlando, Florida, but because of his new position, he wouldn’t be able to pursue his goal.
“The gap between law enforcement and communities is too spread out,” said O’Neal. “When I was coming up, police were real respected. I don’t know how it’s gotten so far apart, but I know the community I live in, I know that I could change some of that.”
What might be most concerning is that O’Neal wants to treat the police force the way he’d treat businesses or the way he’s won championships — “piece by piece.” While O’Neal didn’t elaborate on this, we’re going to assume he wants to incrementally address the issues on both sides in order to bridge the “gap.”
“The plan is to really preach accountability to really preach respect and really teach to treat people as human beings,” O’Neal told The Washington Post. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, I don’t want to comment on what’s going on, but not on my watch. Like for example. You can’t tase an old lady. For example, you can’t put a 6-year-old in handcuffs. Can’t do it. Not going to do it.”
Shaq! Brush, did you forget one of the places you grew up, Newark, New Jersey, is a place where stop and frisk tactics are regularly used to target Black residents? Do you really believe you can undo a lengthy history of state-sanctioned violence in the span of four years? Do you think you’re really the first person who has tried to dismantle a system that has profited off the incarceration and deaths of people who look like you?
You’ve donated time to the Boys and Girls Club of America and have returned home help Newarkers find work. You’ve been about the work so I trust your desire to run for this position comes from the best place. But running for office can be a whole different ball game, pun intended, from serving your community on a charitable level. Dispelling the disconnect between citizens and the police force is deeper than just preaching accountability and respect. We’d have to undo deeply entrenched biases, systems of oppression, and laws that have existed and operated against people of color for as long as we could remember.
There are so many important spaces you can invest your time in, Shaq. Places where you can save lives instead of policing them. Pursue those.
I hope you sit with these thoughts and feel free to @ us on the appropriate social media networks.
Good day, sir.