On Saturday night I was eating dinner with my wife and we were sitting near a patio with the windows open. A person outside smoking a cigarette all of sudden said, “WHAT….THEY FOUND HIM NOT GUILTY!” So we did not really pay any attention to it but then I thought to check my phone. Everyone posted on Facebook and Twitter that George Zimmerman was found not guilty of 2nd Degree Murder or Manslaughter for the killing of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. I was shocked, in disbelief, and made it known on my timelines on both of those social media sites. I also saw that famous people took to social media to express their disbelief. Shaquille O’Neal tweeted, “George Zimmerman not guilty can u believe that. Wow.” Chris Paul tweeted, “Wow!!! Prayers out to the Martin family…” Some had more explicit things to say but two National Football League Wide Receivers had the most controversial tweets of the night; Roddy White of the Atlanta Falcons and Victor Cruz of the New York Giants. White tweeted, “All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid.” Cruz tweeted, “Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him.” Both of them have since apologized because the language was indeed harsh and uncalled for, especially considering that suicide is no joking matter and Cruz’s reference infused stereotypes that already were prevalent, but something else came to the forefront as well.
The responses to the tweets of White and Cruz were just as interesting. Mostly suggesting that they should just “shut up and catch the football, yet when athletes are silent people demand they take a stand. “The Decision” as coined by ESPN featuring the LeBron James choice to “take his talents to South Beach” was much maligned by the majority of the people that saw it, yet it raised millions for the local Boys and Girls Club. Throughout current Houston Rockets Center, Dwight Howard’s career he has been indecisive on where he wanted to play starting with his last few years with the Orlando Magic. This was again evident this past free agency period as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, where media and fans alike wanted him to address his decision head on. However, Howard made it clear after their playoff loss that he would take his time in the off-season and make the decision that was best for him. We crushed him for it!!
The Zimmerman Verdict is a very polarizing issue, that fuels a lot of feelings on either side. Athletes from the beginning of time have taken stands in the name of social justice or to bring attention to a cause. Even the feelings of wanting athletes to take a stand is divisive. For every Tommie Smith and John Carlos there is a Michael Jordan. For each Curt Schilling there is a Tim Duncan. The question still remains of just how much you want your athletes to say. Is it a case where you just want them for your entertainment but you would rather not hear their voices? Do not get me wrong here, I totally understand that professional athletes represent a brand that is consumer driven so they have to curtail what information is put out there, however where is the line drawn? I once had an army instructor tell me that Muhammad Ali “just should have enlisted, he would have just boxed for the Army.” After this “tweet controversy” I cannot not help but wonder are there people out here that truly believe that millions of dollars buys your silence.
Jamie Walker is a Producer and the Atlanta Falcons Blogger for Sports Radio 92.9 The Game Atlanta. He can be followed on Twitter @coachjdub21 or reached through email at Jamie.Walker@cbsradio.com.