Monday, March 26, 2012

The NBA on Trayvon Martin: It's Personal

Professional basketball has something to say on Trayvon Martin. Mike already pointed out how the Miami Heat- yes, the designated Heels of the NBA- have responded to the tragedy in a surprisingly moving way. You may have seen that other players have also spoken out, and that the entire NBAPA put out a statement.

I'm actually surprised to see professional basketball do so much. I know that Martin was a Heat fan, and was watching the All Star Game on that horrible day, but that doesn't really seem to implicate the sport. This is still the league living in the shadow of the man who chastised us that "Republicans buy sneakers, too." This is still the league that, as Mike reminded us, instituted a dress code. This is still the league that lives in fear of the "thug" brand.

So why is professional basketball actually being a little courageous here? Well, precisely because of the "thug" brand.

Note carefully when players and teams started speaking out. It wasn't immediately after the tragedy, and it wasn't two weeks ago, when the nation really noticed and really became outraged. It was about a week after that, when the Professional Haters chimed in and tried to convince us that it was no big deal that some defenseless black kid was shot because he probably had it coming anyway. Because he was wearing a hoodie.

I suppose I don't have to explain why the players spoke up at that moment too much. Like Martin, they'd already been condemned for how they dress. Like Martin, they'd already been labelled for what a few idiots among their demographic cohorts had done. And if they, too, had been walking in the wrong neighborhood at 17, before the fame and fortune kicked in, I'm sure they worry that they'd have one more similarity to Martin.

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