SBD/August 16, 2017/Sports in Society

LeBron James, Other Sports Figures Speak Out On Charlottesville, Denounce Trump

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James has emerged as one of the NBA's most high-profile voices on social issues
Cavaliers F LeBron James last night "called for healing in the wake of last weekend's violent protests" in Charlottesville and also "took a swipe" at President Trump, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Speaking during his annual charitable event at Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky, Ohio, James said, "I have this platform and I'm somebody that has a voice of command, and the only way for us to be able to get better as a society and us to get better as people is love." He added, "It's not about the guy that's the so-called president of the United States. ... It's about all of us looking in the mirror and saying, 'What can we do better to help change?'" James "held his daughter, Zhuri, in his arms as he spoke and was flanked by his two sons, LeBron Jr. and Bryce Maximus, as well as Cavs teammate JR Smith and pop musician Jordin Sparks, who performed at the event." James also referenced Trump on Twitter yesterday "hours before his foundation's event." He tweeted, "Hate has always existed in America. Yes we know that but Donald Trump just made it fashionable again!" McMenamin noted this "marked the second straight summer the Cavs' star used his LeBron James Family Foundation celebration to address social issues." James' foundation "hosted approximately 7,000 of its students and families" (ESPN.com, 8/15). 

USING HIS VOICE
: McMenamin said that ever since being active around the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in '12, James has been "very cognizant of the fact that his voice carries a lot of weight. ... He can really impact people on a one-to-one basis" ("Sportscenter,” ESPN2, 8/16). In Cleveland, Chris Fedor notes James has "emerged as one of the NBA's most high-profile voices on social issues." James has "repeatedly said he will share his opinion when he feels educated enough on an issue, wanting to make sure he does enough research to give an informed opinion" (Cleveland PLAIN DEALER, 8/16). ESPN's Will Cain said, "LeBron has every right to say what he said. He said it in the right venue, he said it at the right forum. He didn't say it in his place of employment, he didn’t say it as a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he didn’t say it during the National Anthem. He said it in a perfect environment" ("First Take," ESPN, 8/16). ESPN's Mike Greenberg said of James,"What he is doing is not about building a brand or making money. It is genuinely wanting to help and make a difference in areas that are important to him. For those who agree with him and those who do not I believe you should commend him for wanting to do so because that is an unselfish act” (“Mike & Mike,” ESPN Radio, 8/16). ESPN's Max Kellerman said, "LeBron has followed his conscience, and he is to be commended for that. ... He is not late to the party, he is not on the bandwagon. ... He has understood the importance of social issues and has always spoken on them in ways that we have not always seen in the last several decades. ... It is very important that we have a guy like LeBron James, and once again, he rises to the occasion here" ("First Take," ESPN, 8/16).

SPEAKING OUT: James on Twitter added that Confederate statues, such as the one of Robert E. Lee, have “nothing to do with us now!” Meanwhile, former NBAer Steve Nash tweeted of Trump, “To defend white supremacists and then slang his (crappy) a-- grape juice pretty much sums the man up.” In DC, Des Bieler noted Nash was "referring to Trump’s remark that he knows 'a lot about Charlottesville' because he owns 'one of the largest wineries in the United States,' located there." Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban also tweeted, "Do you think it’s a problem that POTUS couldn’t take command of a press conference with out seeming to lose his composure?" (WASHINGTONPOST.com, 8/15). NBCSPORTS.com's Dane Carbaugh reported Bucks F Jabari Parker is "one of the NBA players that have also taken to public discourse" on Charlottesville. During an anti-racism rally in Salt Lake City on Monday, Parker "spoke to the crowd about his own struggles and diverse background" (NBCSPORTS.com, 8/15).

TWITTER RESPONSES: Numerous sports figures have taken to social media in the wake of Charlottesville and Trump's response. Dodgers P Brandon McCarthy: "On one hand you had the Nazis who were violent & on the other the allied soldiers were very violent. So it's a draw. Many sides you see." Former NFLer Geoff Schwartz: "Just remember... there's TelePrompTer Trump (he's so presidential) and the other Trump. The real one." Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh: "Anyone who demonstrates through violence, terror or intimidation are embarrassments to our country & are truly disrespectful to our flag." USWNT F Alex Morgan: "There are good people in this country, a lot of them. [Trump is] just not one of them, and I'm disgusted." Seahawks coach Pete Carroll retweeted President Obama, who had tweeted out a quote from Nelson Mandela, "People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love." 

CAVALIER ATTITUDES: In DC, Gene Wang reports the Virginia football team had "just completed practice Saturday and was preparing for a meet-and-greet with fans later that afternoon when news began circulating about unrest" in Charlottesville. The White Nationalist rally had been "unfolding near the school’s athletic facilities, and players quickly began receiving text messages from friends and family asking of their well-being." Following a series of positional meetings, players "remained together for some time watching the protests on television before returning to their living areas, making sure not to insert themselves into the turbulence." UVA WR Andre Levrone said, "We definitely tried to stay away." He added, "At the end of the day, racism in our nation, it shouldn’t stand anywhere. It’s wrong. Especially this weekend to see things such as the Nazi symbol, I mean there’s been hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops who have died, and foreign countries as well, who have fought to get rid of such hatred. For that to resurface, it’s a shame to see" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/16).

KAP LOOKING RIGHT: ESPN's Stephen A. Smith in a special to THE UNDEFEATED wrote Colin Kaepernick is looking "more righteous" than anyone "could’ve ever imagined." Smith: "Who can now doubt that the racism that Kaepernick was protesting is real -- and far more dangerous and deadly and visceral than previously believed?" If the NFL thought "giving him a job would prove a distraction or somehow damage its brand, it was wrong." In one weekend, the question for many inside and outside the NFL has transitioned from, “Who will stand up with Kaepernick?” to “Who could possibly stand against him?” NFL owners have the "cash and the platform to provoke change." No owner wants to "come across as indifferent to the current plight of minorities of all races, colors and creeds" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 8/15).

SHIRT MAKERS: In Winnipeg, Ryan Thorpe reports the CFL has released T-shirts reading "Diversity is Strength" in response to Charlottesville. Players and coaches "wore them for the first time Sunday" for BC Lions-Saskatchewan Roughriders. The message "clearly resonated with fans across the country, who’ve been trying to get their hands on the shirts ever since." CFL Senior VP/Marketing & Content Christina Litz said, "The shirts really represent the cultural mosaic that is Canada." Originally scheduled for a "limited edition release in honour of Canada 150 in the fall, the shirts only made in onto the field Sunday due to a lot of last-minute work." Winnipeg Blue Bombers coaches will be "wearing the shirts on the sidelines tomorrow night" against the Edmonton Eskimos. A limited number will also be "available in the Bomber Store on game day." Thorpe notes by yesterday afternoon the shirts were up for sale online at CFLshop.ca and "more than 100 were purchased in the first five minutes" (WINNIPEG FREE PRESS, 8/16).
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