A picture of the Miami Heat team wrapped in hoodies circulated around late last week, the team's way of showing support for Trayvon Martin's family and all the other black teenagers who might be unfairly targeted by police or law enforcement vigilantes. Martin was murdered inside a gated community in Florida, and many have been critical of how the local authorities handled the case. Geraldo Rivera added fuel to the fire on Friday when he argued that Martin was partially responsible since he was dressed in a hoodie at the time. But it was the Heat's photo that gave off the most powerful message. Here are four reasons why:
1. It's rare: Usually, we don't want athletes to get involved in issues, said Benjamin Hochman in the Denver Post. "Not only are the political issues not as boiling, but the modern athlete (the millionaire celebrity spokesperson) has too much to risk by taking a polarizing political stand." But this was an exception. "It was refreshing to see an athlete of his stature try to educate, to help change America's perspective."
2. It's fearless: "The NBA's big fear is its typical fan -- suburban and white -- will disconnect from the typical NBA player -- urban and black," said Dave Hyde in Florida's Sun-Sentinel. "We wanted Michael Jordan to stand for more then shoes. We wanted Tiger Woods to stand for more than himself. They just didn't have it in them." LeBron, Wade, and the rest of them came through.
3. It's redeeming: "Every time James says anything even moderately interesting in public, even if it is as benign as giving an opinion on contraction, he is forced to clarify, elaborate, backtrack, apologize," said Dan Le Batard in the Miami Herald. "It is why so many of today's athletes don't say anything, afraid as they are of the blowtorch blowback that comes with offending bosses, publicists, sponsors, customers." It was refreshing to see from one of the game's biggest stars.
4. It's hopeful: "James and Wade are teaching us a lesson about sacrifice, intellectual evolution, courage, maturity and loyalty," said Jason Whitlock at Fox Sports. That message never came across before. "LeBron's heart has always been in the right place. Teaming with Wade, a near equal in terms of talent and a big brother in terms of maturity, has moved LeBron's head where his heart is."