I spent last month’s NBA Finals in the corner of LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Turns out, it was easy and fulfilling to root for the best basketball player in the world. In case you missed the Bro Jackson post about hot dogs on June 6, here’s the part where I used that posse cut forum to digress and endorse the Heat on the eve of the series:
“I am aggressively rooting for the Miami Heat because I think the hate that James gets—while initially warranted—has spiraled into a racist dejection of this American life. In fact, Googling ‘white people hate LeBron’ leads to a hive of think pieces about how his reprehensible Decision is justification for making the dude a totem for all things negative about young, black culture. But I adore how the Heat have become a symbol for strength and unity in the black community–at least, during my 2010-2013 tenure in Washington, D.C.–in light of the Trayvon Martin Instagram photo. Even though it means we have to revert to the ‘us vs. them’ mentality that permeates racial lines in this country. Like you know how people criticize Friends for not having prominent minorities? I think the argument fails to respect how easy it is/was to be in a city like New York and avoid having to interact with other races. A friend of mine from Chicago calls his town ‘the salad bar.’ Especially for people that move to big cities after getting a college diploma. It’s so easy to not deal with black people, you just have to put in a little bit of effort.”
I think that the Heat were on a Mexico City ’68 political tip. Their Martin Instagram picture was stunning because it was posted on the team’s most marketable face’s personal account (James’); and it was a united team political statement made just a generation after Michael Jordan famously said that he keeps potentially divisive opinions to himself because “Republicans buy sneakers too.”
Late Saturday, after the biggest civil rights-related case since Rodney King, another Heat headliner took to Twitter and prominently commented. Dwyane Wade did so with full knowledge that his digital audience included his employers, endorsement dealmakers, and the kids that idolize him because of an other-worldly ability to orchestrate a fast break.
Wow!!! Stunned!!! Saddened as a father!!! Some1 make sense of this verdict for me right now please!!! Don’t worry I’ll wait…
— THREE (@DwyaneWade) July 14, 2013
How do I explain this to my young boys????
— THREE (@DwyaneWade) July 14, 2013
Wade’s tweets didn’t wax philosophical or play arm chair attorney. They offered honest reactions, and even had the grace to solicit dissent. The backlash reaction was more or less the same: stick to entertaining me as an athlete and keep the opinions to your dinner table.
My favorite Jay-Z diatribe of his rock solid new album Magna Carta… Holy Grail is when he raps about Muhammad Ali and how the greatest athlete of the 20th Century was told to rumble but be humble and then Jay connects that sentiment to why he plans to “shine like a trillion watts.” “America tried to emasculate the greats,” he adds.
Thank God for social media. In 1968, a James Brown concert was televised at the 11th hour and this helped quell the social unrest in the streets of Boston on the night that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn. Twenty-one years ago, the Rodney King verdict led to violent riots in Los Angeles. Saturday, the conversation shifted to Facebook and Twitter, and it made for sobering, vital discourse between two Americas. No social media-related injuries were reported.
There were people upset about the George Zimmerman verdict and there were people happy about it. Both camps expressed themselves accordingly and with conviction. What bothered me: Sports writers and thinkers that I follow on Twitter, rejecting the notion of expression with dismissive “here come the NFL players” tweets. The notion that the opinions of athletes belong off these digital ethers–that these users can very easily ignore and even combat with aggressive ideological reinforcement—is poisonous.
Marcus Vick and JA Rule tied their arguments to non-sequiturs: Jail time is dished out because of dogs or owning guns, but not for the taking of a human life? Adrian Peterson stressed that the responsibility of a neighborhood watch is to watch. Roddy White and Victor Cruz puffed their chests in anger. Torrey Smith played calming big brother. Javale McGee dispensed Capslocked paranoia. Marquise Goodwin echoed the fears of young, black men in Florida. The whole display was healthy.
As fans, we’ve all seen our favorite players tweet dumbass shit. And sure, it makes us root for them a little less. It’s normal to tie in personal biases with what we like to see on the field of play. But as fans, we should be thankful that the men and women we root for are people with opinions who aren’t afraid to shine like a trillion watts.
Correction: The original version of this article misquoted Michael Jordan as saying “white people” buy sneakers too. Fansided regrets the error.