I am part of a generation that has grown up in a post-Civil Rights era, a generation that is void of socially conscious athletes. Athletes in my lifetime have been more concerned about commercial appeal and advertising than with social issues. For far too long those with the biggest bullhorns and pulpits have remained silent on inequality and social injustice throughout this country. We place athletes on pedestals, they become our heroes, but they remain largely silent on issues that matter. As I look back at my father’s generation, one thing that I envy, is that sports heroes weren’t just heroes between the lines. They took a stand; placing their life, freedom, and livelihoods on the line in the process.
The fact is, we still need Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We still need Arthur Ashe, Tommie Smith, and John Carlos. We still need Bill Russell, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, and Hank Aaron. They gave us a voice where we had no voice. They brought attention to issues that plagued the black community and shined a light on the ugly effects of racial discrimination.
Today’s athlete has been reluctant to take the baton from this great generation. The biggest athlete of my generation, Michael Jordan, famously stated that Republicans buy shoes too as a way to explain his refusal to endorse a Democrat. His philosophy on politics gives us insight about why the most recognizable figure in the world has given so little of himself to social causes. Jordan isn’t the only one to carry this philosophy; Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and many others have been mute over the years as the black community continues in a downward spiral.
This is why it was so refreshing to see LeBron James, the biggest athlete of his generation, tweet a picture of himself and his Miami Heat teammates taking a stand for Trayvon Martin. His teammate, Dwayne Wade, jumped on board as well with his own tweet for Trayvon. Carmelo Anthony posted a picture of himself on Twitter in a hoodie with the words, “I am Trayvon Martin!!!” Others such as Chris Webber have also shown their support. I was shocked to see them put themselves out there so publicly and yet it was a moment that made me swell with pride that they took a public stand on something.
It is tragic moments like Trayvon’s death that tend to hit home and galvanize a movement. Let’s make sure that his death be in vain by springing into action. I hope that the sports heroes of this generation can take stands on social, economic, racial, and educational injustices just as their predecessors did. I pray that they give a voice to those that have none and hope to those that are hopeless. Do not let this be a passing fad. It is time for all of us to use our bullhorns but those with the biggest bullhorns need to speak up!
I Am Trayvon Martin