The most touching moment of the Heat game last night did not come while they were wailing on the Detroit Pistons. It happened when we saw the picture of 13 Heat players wearing hoodies in support of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year old from Miami whose murder in Sanford, Florida has sparked national outrage.
During all of the outcry about his senseless shooting, I wondered if and when any athletes anywhere would weigh in. After all, pro athletes live in a world of privilege and fame that can make them forget where they came from. So many of them are reluctant to get involved in anything controversial, for fear of alienating anyone. Others, quite frankly, may not be informed enough to take a stand on anything. It’s too easy for them to get self-absorbed in their unique world, focused on the “problems” many of us would love to have.
This case, however, touches a raw nerve. It takes us back to a time when civil rights was in the forefront, not on the back burner. During the civil rights heyday, it was common for athletes to take stands and be out front on civil rights issues. Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and others would often lend their voices to the movement. They understood their voices carried extra weight.
It was gratifying to see Dwyane Wade, Lebron James and their teammates weigh in. The players last night wrote “R.I.P. Trayvon Martin” on their sneakers. Their head coach Erik Spolestra even weighed in, explaining how the case touched the heart of the Heat organization.
It was yet another example of why the Heat far and away is Miami’s best franchise. The confused Dolphins are still trying to figure out how to put together a team. The Marlins are focused on re-branding themselves. But the Heat really have a finger on the pulse of this town.
Last night was a night Heat fans could be proud, and make them want to root even more for the team to win a title.