Even though the Miami Heat have suffered a few recent losses on the court, in my opinion they are winning off the court in a more important way.
A month ago, an unarmed 17-year-old, Trayvon Martin, was killed in what’s being characterized by some as a hate crime fueled by racism. Martin was shot to death by 28-year-old George Zimmerman as he was walking in a gated community.
Despite some national attention in the mass media, Zimmerman has not been charged with a crime even though the death occurred a month ago.
The sports world got involved recently. The Miami Heat posed for a team picture in tribute to Martin while simultaneously bringing to light a horrific situation that needs to be seriously addressed.
LeBron James stated, “We just couldn't imagine (anyone's) son leaving to go play basketball or go to the drugstore or go anywhere and he doesn't return."
The Heat players also wrote “RIP Trayvon” on their sneakers during a recent game as a show of solidarity as well.
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis weighed in the situation. Lewis owns a home not far from where Martin lived. Lewis stated, "(The Miami Heat) are saying, 'We are people, we have hearts, we have feelings, we have emotions.' That's a warm feeling. The sports world has embraced this big-time."
Racism is the ultimate thief of opportunity. Opportunities to thrive, survive and live are taken away due to a lethal combination of race and economics. Slice the pie as you wish, but the bottom line is this: A 17-year-old unarmed boy was killed under dubious circumstances.
Should athletes use their platforms to help denounce inequities in society?
It is utterly disturbing and reprehensible why Zimmerman has yet to face any type of charges. It is sad to think that we live in a country where we have an African-American president yet we still have racial tragedies that prevail in a so-called democratic society.
In my opinion, based the study of historical facts, had Martin been white, an arrest would have been made. I will also emphatically assert had Martin been white, an arrest would have been made promptly.
Before I continue, we don’t know all of the facts in terms of what actually transpired. We don’t know all of the specifics, but what is certain is that a young boy was robbed of an opportunity to live, under dubious circumstances.
With respect to society, history suggests there are separate manuals of justice between African-Americans and whites. There is a manual for everyone and one for African-Americans.
The societal doctrines were also utilized to infiltrate sports. Legally, African-Americans were citizens in the 1940s but were not allowed to play America’s favorite pastime because of race. In 1947, Jackie Robinson came along and changed that.
Back in the day, African-American athletes had to do more than play their sports—they were activists/athletes who took stands against the ugliness of racism in society and sports.
While James and his teammates should be commended for their efforts, by no means is the work complete. Jim Brown was a champion on and off the field. He routinely used his platform to denounce societal inequities along with those in sports.
Brown recently said in regards to James, “I’m so glad these young people are paying attention to injustices in this country, getting into issues they normally stay out of.”
Brown continued, “That’s what we need, a passion to get involved. It is almost God-sent. The modern-day athlete doesn’t get behind anything, which means they’ve wasted a lot of their real power. LeBron is learning that money, fame, popularity and notoriety pale compared to human feelings and consciousness.”
Athletes don’t speak up today. When they are at the peak of visibility, they lead on the court but not off it. There are no Muhammad Alis, Curt Floods, Jim Browns, and Bill Russells, who graciously set the table for the African-American athlete and all athletes in general.
In my opinion, we need more from the African-American athlete. Too much is given, much is expected. Besides, the contracts athletes have came as a result of Curt Flood’s work.
The freedom to speak out on issues and utilize their platforms for change came from Muhammad Ali stating he was the greatest and that “black was beautiful.”
The overall respect the athletes receive came from Bill Russell, when he stated “I owe the public nothing.” Russell received respect as a premier athlete but was disrespected as a human being in society.
Some don’t speak out because they are ignorant and don’t know the historical development of this country and sports. Some are knowledgeable but simply choose to play it safe a la Michael Jordan. Then there are those who simply don’t care.
The time has come for all athletes to use their platforms for more than self-gratification and bogus charities that don’t support real causes. Get with the program and make changes in a society that allows you to earn tremendous dollars and garner widespread appeal.
I’m glad the Miami Heat organization brought attention the murder of Trayvon Martin. Now all we need is the journalists to take notice and consistently report on this issue and others as they occur.
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