The fight to combat police violence seems to be catching fire in the sports world.
Challenging the stigma that this generation’s ball players steer clear of making any political statements, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James joined the St. Louis Rams, Reggie Bush, and Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls when he wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt before Monday’s game in Brooklyn — an action many public figures are rocking to stand in solidarity with Eric Garner protesters.
If you recall, “I can’t breathe” were Garner’s last words before he was choked to death by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in July. The unarmed grandfather was suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Last week, a Staten Island grand jury elected not to indict Pantaleo in Garner’s death, sparking even more protests in the wake of the non-indictment of the officer who shot another unarmed black male in Ferguson, Mo. – Michael Brown Jr.
“It’s not a Cavs thing,” James said before the game. “It’s a worldly thing.”
“It’s just for us to make a [statement] to understand what we’re going through as a society,” James said when asked about the T-shirt. “I’ve been quoted over and over about what’s going on as far as it’s more of a notion to the family, more than anything. Obviously, as a society we have to do better. We have to be better for one another. It doesn’t matter what race you are. It’s more of a shout out to the family more than anything, because they’re the ones that should be getting all the energy and effort.”
James was joined by Brooklyn Nets players Kevin Garnett, Deron Williams, Jarrett Jack, and Alan Anderson. Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving also came out in support, wearing the words emblazoned on his shirt. James was vocal about finding Rose’s t-shirt last week and his calls were heard by Nets guard Jarrett Jack, who supplied the shirts for players on both teams to wear.
Before the game, Jack, who played for Cleveland last season, told reporters he offered the T-shirts to members of the Cavs.
“I just heard people’s opinion on the topic, and I know [the Cavaliers] are on the road, this is the place where it happened, so if they wanted to be a part of the cause or make a statement without actually necessarily saying any words, I definitely extended the invitation,” Jack said.
“Obviously Kyrie was my teammate, so I reached out to him, I heard ‘Bron say something about it when Derrick Rose took the stance on it, so I reached out to my people out here, Excel Sports Management [Jack’s agency], they was able to make it happen, they made a few shirts for those guys happen over there, so I know us as a team we’re gonna go out and try to make a stance and show that we’re a team that’s not with prejudice. We want to have tolerance for everybody. And I just want to allow those guys to come be a part of it as well as much as we could.”
“I try to kinda distance myself from [social issues],” but this is one where I kinda really paid attention and saw what was going on,” Williams said. “I mean, you can see the [Garner] video and you know what happened. It’s not one of those things where people are saying this and the cops are saying that. It’s there for you to see. You just feel bad that a man lost his life because of that.”
Said Irving: “I think it’s really important that we show our respect to the families. More importantly we’re in the city where tragedy happened and it’s really important to us that we stand up for a cause, especially this one. It hits close to home and means a lot to me.”
Below are photos of last night’s courtside protest:
— dream hampton (@dreamhampton) December 9, 2014
Kyrie Irving is wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt before game vs Nets in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/rksutE8yP2
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 8, 2014
Outside of Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the dissent against police violence was heard loud and clear. Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the building in what was dubbed the #RoyalShutdown, after news spread that Great Britain’s Prince William and his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would be attending the game.
— Ashley (@ashdollarsign) December 9, 2014
— Christina Coleman (@ChrissyCole) December 9, 2014
And with support from the head honchos, it seems these statements will continue to happen on the field and the court.
Nets coach Lionel Hollins and Cavs coach Dave Blatt both were in favor of their players taking a public stand.
“They should be political. They should be about social awareness. Basketball is just a small part of life,” Hollins said. “If they don’t think that there is justice or they feel like there is something that they should protest, then they should. That is their right as citizens of America, and I have no problem with it at all.”
We’ll keep you updated with the latest.
SOURCE: ESPN, Twitter | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter