Earlier today, LeBron James posted on Twitter a link to a photo of himself and many of his Miami Heat teammates wearing hooded sweatshirts: a bold statement in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin. The picture was accompanied by the following hashtags: #WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice.
Martin was a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed three weeks ago by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch leader in Sanford, Florida who thought that the teen looked suspicious. At the time of his death, Martin was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and was reportedly carrying a pack of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea.
The incident—for various reasons—has been the talk of virtually every media outlet over the past couple of weeks. To date, Zimmerman has never been arrested or charged with any crime related to the shooting.
In an era where many players are loath to offer their opinion on any subject outside of their particular arena, it is, in some ways, refreshing to see an athlete do what James (and his teammates) did earlier today.
Muhammad Ali was vehemently opposed to the Vietnam War. Bill Russell championed for civil rights during his entire NBA career. But recently, many athletes have chosen to stand on the sidelines when it comes to social issues, perhaps afraid that their responses will turn away potential sponsors.
For years, Michael Jordan failed to speak out against the sweatshops that made his signature shoes. And though we'll never know whether Jordan's considerable celebrity could have led to improved working conditions in those factories, his silence on the issue was deafening.
Now is it James' responsibility to throw his weight behind the hot-button issues of the day? No. And none of us would we have faulted him if he had remained neutral in this situation.
But in the case of Trayvon Martin, James decided to take a stand. And without uttering a single word, he spoke volumes.