Soon after 18-year-old Michael Brown was gunned down by an unidentified policeman on Sunday afternoon in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis, Rev. Al Sharpton arrived on the scene to “speak up for the family of the victim” and spend a great deal of time in the spotlight.
However, the host of MSNBC's weekday afternoon PoliticsNation program quickly became the target of several critics, one of whom accused him of being a publicity-seeking “coon.” Sharpton shot back that “using a racial term tells you more about him than me.”
That initial reaction came from Gilbert Arenas, a former guard for the Washington Wizards National Basketball Association team, who begged Brown's family to leave Sharpton out of the situation because “Caesar the monkey” or a character from the Planet of the Apes series “could get them better justice.”
Arenas then continued his race-tainted rant by stating that “the stats also show Al 'coon' sharpton has not helped one situation he has protested at; he actually made it worst [sic] and because of him, the jury goes the other way (think about it).”
He also pointed to other situations in which Sharpton's involvement had a negative impact, including the Jena Six -- black teenagers convicted in the 2006 beating of a white student at Jena High School in Louisiana -- whom Sharpton defended even after they were found guilty.
The athlete also discussed the minister's involvement in the Trayvon Martin case, when the teenager was shot by George Zimmerman, a Hispanic man who was later acquitted of any crimes in the incident.
“The list goes way back,” Arenas added, because Sharpton is “lookn for attention; what u said at trayvon's rally, #enoughisenough; ur right, we're tired of u PRETENDING.”
In order to get Sharpton's reactions to his critics, a reporter for the TMZ website caught up with him and explained that a basketball player had referred to him with a racial epithet.
The liberal host first said he didn't know who the critic was and noted that “he's not up to date on how people feel about themselves in our community.”
The MSNBC host asserted: “It tells us more about him than me. I don't know who he is, but I'm sure that one day, he'll learn that you shouldn't talk about people like that.
“I'm not playing basketball,” Sharpton added. “This is serious.”
The reporter pressed on, noting that some people feel his presence in Ferguson is making the situation worse.
“How?” the activist responded. “By going out and helping the family and calling for peace?”
Sharpton then stated that “the family asked me to come” and, as a result, “we had a huge rally. A lot of people came, so it doesn't hurt my feelings if he didn't come. It's alright. I didn't even know who he was, so I didn't miss him.”
In fact, the MSNBC anchor continued, “We're going back. Martin Luther King III and I are having a rally on Sunday.”
The family came on my national show first. You know, people say: 'Oh, is he doing this for national attention?' We are making national attention.
We are going to continue to fight just as we do in other cases and have done some, won some, lost some, but nobody has a better record than I do.
The reporter then asked: "What do you say to the people who think that you're out there for the wrong reason?”
“What is the wrong reason?” Sharpton replied. “Maybe the people who are criticizing are criticizing for the wrong reason. Why don't they help the family?”
After being reminded that the critic was a basketball player, Sharpton challenged: “Put his record up in what he does, and mine in civil rights, and we'll see who won more, lost more.”
Meanwhile, Arenas isn't the only person who has expressed displeasure about the MSNBC host's arrival: James Knowles, the mayor of Ferguson, stated: “I have the concern that we will lose sight of this young man and the tragedy, and become a national spectacle instead of focusing on ... the issues at hand,” he said.
“So sometimes,” Knowles asserted, “star power’s not always a good thing.”