Social media accounts splashed with upset posts, after news outlets reported that a St. Louis County grand jury declined charging Darren Wilson, a white police officer who fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, from Ferguson, Mo., in August of 2014.
Many sports stars quickly shared their thoughts. In the past few years, LeBron James has been seemingly one of the most vocal athletes that wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion on social issues, especially in the Black community.
In December of 2014, a grand jury in Staten Island NY decided not to indict New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who allegedly was selling loose cigarettes on the street. The decision sparked an army of protestors at various sites throughout New York City, representing many ethnic groups who marched, halted traffic and refused to move while chanting Garner’s final words: “I Can’t Breathe.” Garner’s last remarks were stamped on black t-shirts wore by some NBA players.
The T-Shirt Effect
1. It was a no brainier for LeBron James to warm-up in a black t-shirt with the words, “I Can’t Breathe,” written across his chest to show support for the family of Eric Garner, an African-American man that died because of confrontation with a police officer on July 17, 2014.
2. Brooklyn Nets star Deron Williams who would usually shy away from social issues, but the Garner incident caught his attention. On Dec. 8, Williams decided to wear a “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt as the Brooklyn Nets prepared to play against the Cleveland Cavaliers. The 30-year-old, point guard told ESPN: “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.”
3. Like some of his Cavs teammates, Kyrie Irving also settled on wearing a “I Can’t Breathe,” t-shirt the night Cleveland competed against the Brooklyn Nets at the Barclay Center. “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,” Irving told ESPN on Dec. 8.
4. Besides these basketball stars, Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, Brooklyn Nets power forward Kevin Garnett also wore the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts and other players from the league.
Other notable activism moments by King James.
1. When the 30-year-old heard the jury’s decision to not indict St. Louis officer, Darren Wilson for the killing of teen Michael Brown, James, the father of three, addressed his 7.77 million Instagram followers by writing: “As a society how do we do better and stop things like this happening time after time…” In honor of Brown’s death, James posted a watercolor-like painting of a heavy Michael Brown and a slender Trayvon Martin supposedly heading to the gates of heaven.
2. The Cleveland power forward was one of the first athletes to comment on former Los Angeles Clippers owner, Donald Sterling’s racist remarks in April. He even encouraged NBA commissioner, Adam Silver to take action. James also told a reporter: “There’s no room for Donald Sterling in our league. There’s no room for him.”
3. Back in March, sports sites and ESPN commentators Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, discussed James’ criticism about having to play in a sleeved jersey. And, NBA commissioner Adam Silver heard about the superstar’s dislike for the unpopular tunics and eventually planned a meeting to hash out the matter.
But the NBA wasn’t the only sports organization that had players make social statements. On Nov. 30, before the St. Louis Rams competed against the Oakland Raiders, some of the players from the St. Louis Rams used the ‘hands up, don’t shoot’ pose as they headed onto the field. Rams teammates Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, Jared Cook, Chris Givens and Kenny Britt were imitating protestors in Ferguson, Mo., after the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, who was fatally shot by Ferguson police office Darren Wilson in August.