In today’s sports world, athletes and social activism rarely mix. Michael Jordan set the standard: steer clear of controversy, appeal to everyone, and sell sneakers. (Jordan once refused to endorse the African-American opponent of the late Jesse Helms, who was criticized for race-baiting, in a North Carolina Senate race. “Republicans wear sneakers too,” Jordan famously explained).
Gone are the days when an icon like Muhammad Ali had a conscience as famous at his athletic prowess.
So when players speak out on a social issues, it’s noteworthy. And when the Miami Heat, the team people love to root against, step up, you can’t help but give the Heat credit. If we’re going ridicule the Heat for childishly hamming it up after signing LeBron James, let’s salute the team for taking a stand on behalf of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager who was shot to death in Florida by a neighborhood watchman.
Members of the Heat donned hooded sweatshirts – on the day he was killed, Martin’s hoodie aroused suspicion – and posted a tribute picture on Facebook and Twitter. “#WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Sterotyped #WeWantJustice,” LeBron James wrote on his Twitter page.
“This situation hit home for me because last Christmas, all my oldest son wanted as a gift was hoodies,” Dwyane Wade told The Associated Press Friday, before the Heat defeated the Detroit Pistons in Auburn Hills, Mich. “So when I heard about this a week ago, I thought of my sons. I’m speaking up because I feel it’s necessary that we get past the stereotype of young, black men and especially with our youth.”