When A Miami Heat Photo is Worth (More Than) 1000 Words!
Posted by ataylorblog on March 23, 2012
Today, at 1:26 PM ET on March 23rd, 2012 (almost a month after 17-year old Trayvon Martin was shot & killed in a quiet community in Sanford, FL on February 26th), NBA superstar & Miami Heat player LeBron James posted this photo on his twitter account to his 4 million followers.
The photo was posted with the following caption: “
#WeAreTrayvonMartin #Hoodies #Stereotyped #WeWantJustice” and quickly became one of the strongest political statements we’ve seen from a high profile athlete in quite a while.
One word came to mind when I saw the photo: POWERFUL
Many others apparently felt the same. Only two hours after posting the photo on his Twitter account (@KingJames), the image had been viewed over 97,000 times and twitter timelines were filled with retweets & comments about the powerful photo.
I, personally, got the chills when I first saw the Miami Heat photo & was proud that these young role models, who have an incredible platform through sports, would risk public backlash from their fans & sponsors in order to chime in on this tragic episode, make a stand, and be the catalysts for change!
I mean, these are the young men who grew up idolizing Michael “Air” Jordan and wearing the $100+ shoes that has led to the Jordan brand commanding the majority of market share in the basketball shoe market. In order to sell so many shoes, you have to ensure that you don’t tick anyone off or draw their ire. His desire to have every man, woman, and child in the suburbs, cities, and rural areas around the world wearing”J’s”, led him to famously say “Republicans buy shoes too” when asked to support a candidate or share his political views. And thus, generations of athletes following in his footsteps have refused to step outside the box for fear that doing so would hurt their brand, their image, and their potential for off-court/field earnings. It’s been decades since Jim Brown, Lew Alcindor (or Kareem Abdul-Jabar), and Muhammad Ali used their platforms to express their strong opinions.
While I would love to see more athletes stepping up & feeling the freedom to share their true voice, I completely understand why they would choose to (or be advised to) abstain from doing so. Tim Tebow is unique in his efforts to use his platform to share his religious beliefs with others. Many other athletes chose to do so in a much quieter fashion. Some celebrities even make controversial statements to, yes it’s true, get their names back in the forefront. In fact, we were privy to this today…
Amidst this strong statement by two of the most respected professional athletes of our generation, media personality Geraldo Rivera set off his own social media firestorm on Twitter (@GeraldoRivera) after imploring parents to “protect” their children by refusing to allow them to don a certain article of clothing. His tweet read “I’m trying to save lives like Trayvon’s-Parents Alert: hoodies can get your kid killed.” This controversial post received quite a bit of vitriol from many who felt his comments were insensitive & diminished the role that race (not clothing) played in this tragedy. Even Rivera’s son stated that he was ashamed of his father’s stance on hoodies. Many felt that Rivera’s ridiculous tweet served his purpose…getting his name back in the conversation. Truth be known, many of us haven’t thought about Rivera’s opinions in years. His mission was accomplished, but let’s not focus on him. Instead, let’s talk about the response Dwyane & LeBron will receive for their strong actions.
The team photo that was posted succeeded a photo that James’ Heat teammate Dwyane Wade had posted on his account earlier that morning and supposedly is part of a larger plan of action the two had discussed prior to their social media barrage.
In a world where a poorly timed & poorly phrased tweet will inspire companies to drop athletes from their list of endorsers in a hot second, I can’t fault athletes from thinking twice before they express their opinions. Teetering on the verge of being hypocrites, we want our stars to be honest & candid when microphones are shoved in their face, but when they are honest or maybe show sensitivities, we penalize them for doing so. Ask Reshard Mendenhall or Charles Barkley (when he said he’s not a role model). The list could go on, but the reactions tend to be the same…pretty harsh & unforgiving.
If these guys were to take a moment to read the comments from various articles & blogs about the Trayvon case and/or the Heat photo, they may have been dissuaded from actually making this stance. A simple quick glance at the comments & one can see the anger, vitriol, hatred, and ignorance that persists in our country. This is not only an issue of race or racial profiling but of a young, innocent teen whose life ended way too soon. It just so happens that a team in a league where the majority of its athletes are black, took a stance. But this should be an incident that we ALL should take a stance against. Regardless of race, age, gender, or status! Sadly, for all of the positive reaction they will receive for their brave move, many uniformed souls will blast them for reasons I can’t even imagine.
All of which makes the fact that these men who, ever since The Decision during the summer of 2010 & the subsequent rally on South Beach, have been criticized for anything and everything they do. They mock Dirk Nowitzki’s coughing….criticized. They shoot commercials & smile for the cameras…called “Hollywood as H%$#” by Joaqim Noah. They (or specifically LeBron) miss or don’t take a game winning shot (heaven forbid that occur in an All-Star game)…questioned for being afraid of the moment.
Well it was in this moment, when Trayvon Martin’s family was left with so many unanswered questions & the end of their dreams for their teenage son, when LeBron, Dwyane & their “brothers in arms” (as the Heat’s Head Coach Eric Spoelstra likes to refer to the 15 players on the Heat roster) were NOT afraid of the moment!
It was in this moment that these two stars (both fathers of two young boys) who we constantly put under a microscope, stood up for what they believe in. Perhaps it was the image (see photo to the right) of the two with their boys at the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend, which James tweeted out to fans, in Orlando that was etched in their mind. Perhaps it was the image of them walking the streets of this country many a days wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Perhaps it was the fear in Trayvon’s voice as his audible screams played out on the audio of the 9-1-1 calls.
Perhaps it was the understanding that it is time to put an end to such senseless crimes. Perhaps they realized that this simple photo was, in fact, worth more than 1000 words!
This photo just may be the catalyst to decreasing the probability that another young man buying skittles & a soda will be confronted by an armed vigilante who racially profiled him for simply wearing a hooded sweatshirt. We can only hope that the photo will be received as it is intended!
Kudos to Dwyane Wade & LeBron James for taking a stand today! You have an POWERFUL voice, are using your GLOBAL platform, and have made a BIG statement! That was picture perfect in my eyes!