Hours after I attended the 2013 ESPY Awards at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, CA, I was amazed at how much our modern day professional and college student-athletes are heroized for their athletic and social pursuits here at home, as well as globally. With every step as well as every statement they make being covered by the worldwide media (TV, radio, print, social media), these athletes have an enormous sized platform in which their opinions or statements, political or otherwise, have the potential to grab the attention of the world—having the ability to impact others, including the communities in which they come from or represent.

That’s why I was so proud of Lebron James and so many of the other athletes who stood up, spoke out, and put their hoodies on last year to push for the arrest of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin.

So on my way home from the ESPY event sitting in bumper to bumper LA traffic, I couldn’t help but think what kind of reaction the world would have had if arguably the biggest sports star in the world, Lebron James, had gone off script and publicly stated he would no longer play basketball for the Miami Heat until the State of Florida decided to revoke the “Stand Your Ground Law” during his acceptance speech of the male athlete of the year award. WHOA!!! How would the audience have reacted? Would there have been applause or would there have been an outcry of boos? How would ESPY Awards host John Hamm have handled the situation in front of a live audience? NBA? Miami Heat front office? What would have been the reaction of ESPN, parent company Disney, or any of the companies that James has endorsement deals with?

No one will ever know the answer to any of those questions because it never happened—it was a figment of my imagination, a hypothetical of sorts.  However, I know if Lebron James would’ve made such a statement, it would have been the shock heard around the world and in an instant became world news. It would have been the buzz heard on every airwave of internet, television, radio and print.   Perhaps, it would have been bigger news than his press conference when he announced to the world he was taking his talents to South Beach.

In addition to becoming worldwide news, in Muhammad Ali like fashion, a statement by Lebron James could have completely influenced the way professional athletes respond to current issues, as well as how they are seen.  Our athletes know they are role-models and know the potential they have to influence change in our communities, it’s just they are all waiting around for someone else, the other guy on the other team, to make the first move. In recent years, there have been positive instances where athletes have attempted to empower themselves but the momentum does not always catch on. What will it take for a mega-star like Lebron to lead by example so that others follow in his footsteps?

The collective action of professional athletes sounding off about the racial inequities, plight of the poor, as well as social injustices cold be the tipping point (so desperately needed) that I believe will bring America and its younger generation to be more conscious about issues and policies in our society. Without the direction, mobilization and enthusiasm of our young people, we’ll still be discussing and shaking our heads in disbelief about the same fundamental problems for generations to come. 

In summary, I am not criticizing Lebron James for not speaking out publicly about the Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin verdict, so much as expressing my hopes. King James is his own man and has the power to choose when, where, and how he makes public comments about controversial issues. Once again, I was proud of the fact that earlier this year he and his teammates took a picture in hoodies as an act of solidarity for the unarmed teenager who was senselessly killed in Sanford, Florida on the night of the 2012 NBA All-Star game. It was a great gesture that caught the attention of sports enthusiasts all over the world. It’s just that a huge part of my heart wanted him so badly to publicly acknowledge Trayvon Martin and his family at some point during his ESPY Awards acceptance speeches. If he didn’t want to be controversial, I understand, but I just wanted him to say something in honor and in memory of the young man’s life.

At the very same time, I know that none of us should wait for Lebron or any other sports celebrity to tap into our very own personal leadership skills to hold elected leaders accountable for Trayvon Martin, “Stand Your Ground”, “Stop and Frisk”, and our entire criminal justice system.

 RELATED: 25 Sports Stars Speak out About Trayvon Martin


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *