Sports has often been a vehicle for social change in America. Throughout time figures like Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Muhammad Ali stood up for social injustices but were still remarkable athletes. At the time, their stances were somewhat unpopular but these figures were large enough to withstand the burden of ridicule, simply because it was the right thing to do. Over the course of time some more famous athletes lost sight of the world that surrounded them, often trading riches for the not standing up for injustices, being ever so careful not to rock the boat. Michael Jordan so famously illustrated this by his famous quote, “Republicans buy shoes too” further establishing that economics for some is an important mitigating factor in deciding what injustices they choose to stand against. In fairness, society realizes that everyone is not built to be in the front lines of protest and do things undercover to help the cause, but just maybe your hand enclosed in another in unity is better than the hand you use to write a check.
In a time when athletes, especially African-American athletes are criticized for the wrong reasons, whether it be financially, criminally or just being self-centered it is very refreshing to see athletes take a stand. Unless you have been under a rock for the past few days, the Trayvon Martin Tragedy has emerged in the national consciousness. On February 26th, 2012, 17-year old Trayvon Martin was murdered after walking back from a local 7-Eleven in Sanford, Florida. He was shot by self-appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, a white male, with a violent criminal history, especially toward black males. Weeks after the tragedy, Zimmerman was not arrested claiming the shooting was in self-defense, although Martin was unarmed, only having some Skittles and a can of ice tea in his possession. Only recently has Martin’s case come to the national spotlight.
We are highly critical of LeBron James, whether it be that he is not clutch in the 4th Quarter, his style of dress or “The Decision”, the public has constant words for his actions. James along with Dwayne Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat, in a show of solidarity wore “hoodies”, the clothing Martin was wearing at the time he was killed and what some have later said was the cause of Martin being “suspicious looking”, to give attention to the tragedy. I am sure that some will call the move unpopular and not in the best interest of his career but it is a stance in the name of doing the right thing. When so many athletes would not dare want the unpopular eye focusing upon their sight line, these men, these young black men have brought attention to a cause that directly affects their plight. With all that you call today’s African-American athlete, in a world that only cares about their athletic prowess or how they impact a team, please be conscious that some still focus on the right thing to do. It is something that they do not HAVE to do, but it is certainly refreshing when they stand up for something far greater than themselves.
Jamie Walker can be reached through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coachjdub21.
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