After the George Zimmerman verdict came in, we provided you with a summary of social media reaction from the world of athletics. Some of what was said was tame:
@Shaq (TNT analyst Shaquille O’Neal) : George Zimmerman not guilty can u believe that. Wow.
@DwyaneWade (Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade): How do I explain this to my boys????
And some of the tweets were strongly opinionated:
@roddywhiteTV (Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White) : All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid
@Team Vic (New York Giants receiver Victor Cruz): Thoroughly confused. Zimmerman doesn’t last a year before the hood catches up to him.
White was apologizing for his remark the next morning. And Cruz appeared on a national radio show to express regrets for a reaction that many observers thought crossed the line.
And it’s a lesson to be learned in today’s society where many have a tendency to respond immediately—often via social media—without thought of repercussions.
The one athlete we thought we’d hear from—LeBron James—has been silent in the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict. If you remember it was James who gathered his teammates to take a photograph in hoodies—a photo that he posted on instagram—as the story of the killing of Trayvon Martin began to pick up steam. It was a move that thrust the eventual NBA champions into the debate about profiling.
It might make Cruz and White feel a little better to know that they’re not alone in their feelings–they’re shared by none other than one of the most acclaimed writers and voices in the country today: David Simon, creator of “The Wire.”
On his blog, “The Audacity of Despair,” Simon had this to say:
“If I were a person of color in Florida, I would pick up a brick and start walking toward that courthouse in Sanford. Those that do not, those that hold the pain and betrayal inside and somehow manage to resist violence — these citizens are testament to a stoic tolerance that is more than the rest of us deserve. I confess, their patience and patriotism is well beyond my own.’’
Simon has yet to buckle to public pressure to take back what he wrote on his blog, despite the fact that what he wrote might be perceived as the same “violent” content that got Cruz and White vilified:
Does Simon, praised and honored for three decades for his newspaper coverage of urban crime, his network TV scripts dealing with it and a handful of HBO series before and after the landmark “Wire,’’ hold a lesser position of influence than a pair of pro football players in their 20s – or greater? All summed up a potent, prevalent emotion running through several segments of society after a verdict whose repercussions will be felt for generations.
The two young athletes were quickly shut down, their comments shot down with brutal reactions that included threats and wishes for catastrophic injury.
Simon has gotten similarly harsh reactions but, to coin a phrase, he’s stood his ground.
It remains to be seen how those emotions steer the evolution of the discussion post-verdict. What’s clear today: some people expressing them were immediately silenced, and some were not.
And it just the latest demonstration about how the world of athletics has changed over the years.
Could you imagine Jim Brown backing down from making remarks that expressed exactly how he felt?