The most insulting and reductive statement a ‘fan’ could ever utter to a black professional athlete is, “Hey, why don’t you just stick to [insert the athlete’s sport here]?”
It’s a method of erasing a black person’s intrinsic humanity, because the ‘fan’ can’t be bothered to view them as anything other than their form of entertainment.
Critics once told Jim Brown to stick to football. And Muhammad Ali to stick to boxing.
Perhaps today’s most famous athlete — LeBron James — has also been told to stick to basketball when he’s decided to raise awareness for different causes such as Eric Garner or Trayvon Martin.
But his some of his supporters want him to do the exact opposite — and are calling for the NBA superstar to step up in response to the killing of Tamir Rice
Activists have created a hashtag on Twitter called #NoJusticeNoLeBron, demanding James sit out NBA games until the Department of Justice “imprisons” the two white officers involved in 12-year-old Rice’s death.
But is it fair to ask LeBron James to miss games in order to protest the grand jury decision to not indict the officers?
— TariqTouré طارق تورى (@TariqToure) December 29, 2015
The truth is it’s more than fair to ask professional black athletes to stand up for important societal issues, but it’s unfair to limit that demand to one man as a test of his ‘blackness’ or his dedication to his people and their issues.
When I first heard about the #NoJusticeNoLeBron hashtag, I immediately wondered why it wasn’t framed as #NoJusticeNoNBA? Why must the brunt of the heavy lifting be limited to LeBron James when the scourge of excessive police violence affects black folks nationwide?
— ☻ᏒᎥϮ ♛ (@Empress_Orit) December 29, 2015
While I understand that James may be the biggest basketball star on the planet and a proud resident of the same city where Tamir Rice lost his life, Rice’s death is not a Cleveland issue — just like Eric Garner’s death is not a New York issue or Michael Brown’s death is not a St. Louis issue.
These are American issues.
The systemic nature of excessive police violence and the lack of police accountability that allows the Officer Loehmann’s, the Officer Pantaleo’s and the Officer Wilson’s off the hook for their brutality is occurring all over the United States.
We don’t just need LeBron James to speak out, we also need Carmelo Anthony, Dwayne Wade, Skylar Diggins, Brittney Griner, Todd Gurley, Ryan Howard and Serena and Venus Williams to join in.
Some people believe that Lebron James potentially sitting out is directly comparable to the Mizzou college football team deciding to protest the racial animus on campus a couple months ago.
But those situations are not alike.
The Mizzou issue was an internal matter that more related to the Donald Sterling fiasco that the Los Angeles Clippers players went through a couple years ago.
To ask LeBron James to stop playing basketball until the DOJ completes its federal investigation, files charges against the officers and successfully prosecutes them is not a small demand. It is an extremely heavy demand that requires more than the dissent of one star athlete in one sport.
While sports are a religion in America, racism has a legacy that predates every league in the country.
Some people believe it is completely stupid to ask James to sit games out or to even publicly take a stand for Tamir Rice. It’s likely that these are some of the same people that are just more ‘comfortable’ with black athletes putting their head down and not using their voice for advancement.
I can’t bash the hashtag, regardless of how much I may disagree with it, because I understand the desperation it originates from.
We need to come together to decide on what the best collective response would be from influential black celebrities of all genres. This is an effort that will require a village, because generations of discrimination will not be undone by one game, one player or one hashtag.