Why Star Athletes Are Speaking Out Against The Ferguson Decision


In the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of teenager Michael Brown, prominent current and former athletes took to Twitter and other forms of social media to, like many others, express their opinions on the decision. Most of the athletes were, like Brown, African-American, and they were largely critical of the decision not to take Wilson’s case to trial. Here are some examples:

LeBron James shared this picture on Instagram:

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J.R. Smith captioned this, #DontShoot:

Magic Johnson:

Serena Williams:

Former NFL wide receiver Chad Johnson, who earlier tweeted simply, “It’s not designed for us…”:

Former NBA All-Star and TNT analyst Kenny Smith:

NBA All-Star David West, who appeared to read much of the grand jury report and spent the night debating with his followers:

The Brown case is not the first time many of these athletes have spoken out. West frequently addresses political (and racial) topics on his Twitter feed. When they were teammates in Miami, James and Dwyane Wade participated in a team-wide picture in which players wore hoodies to protest the death of Trayvon Martin. Wade later donned another hoodie with his sons on the cover of EBONY Magazine.


In August, former NBA player Len Elmore called on even more athletes to speak out, saying that the same communities “that spawned, nurtured and supports black athletes, now needs their heroes and their voices,” especially because these issues have affected many of these athletes and still affect them today.

“How many black male athletes have had confrontations with the police?” Elmore asked in a USA Today column. “In the present, it was Michael Brown or Eric Garner. It could be a black athlete, his father, brother or son tomorrow. Where is their outrage? Where are their voices?”

Indeed, multiple athletes have had high-profile confrontations in recent years. In 2011, former NFL running back Warrick Dunn, who is black, was pulled over for looking like someone “transporting drugs and guns.” The same year, Major League Baseball outfielder Torii Hunter, also black, was confronted by gun-wielding police outside his own home when his alarm malfunctioned because they didn’t believe he lived there.

Many of these athletes, no matter their social or economic stature, continue dealing with the same problems that affect people like Brown and the community in which he lived. Which, at the very least, should be another reminder of how deeply ingrained these racial injustices — and the stereotypes and structures that perpetuate them — remain in our society.