Friday, Dan Devine brought your attention to the Miami Heat's hoodie-wearing show of solidarity in response to the controversial death of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teen killed by George Zimmerman in claimed self-defense even though Zimmerman's 911 call and further investigation suggest Martin did nothing more than walk around their neighborhood in a hoodie carrying iced tea and Skittles. On top of that, the local police department appears to have done its job very carelessly, disregarding standard procedure. It's now a national story, and with good reason.
However, the Heat's decision was primarily about drawing greater attention to the issue; they declined to take an explicit political stance in terms of which actions should now be taken. The NBPA did exactly that in a statement on Friday afternoon:
The National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) offers its condolences to the family and loved ones of Trayvon Martin in their time of need. The NBPA is saddened and horrified by the tragic murder of Mr. Martin and joins in the chorus of calls from across the nation for the prompt arrest of George Zimmerman. The reported facts surrounding Mr. Zimmerman's actions indicate a callous disregard for Mr. Martin's young life and necessitate that he stand trial. The NBPA also calls for the permanent resignation of Sanford Chief of Police Bill Lee and a full review of the Sanford Police Department, for dereliction of duty and racial bias in this matter and others. Their silence in the face of this injustice is reprehensible and they cannot be trusted to safe guard the citizens of the Sanford community equally. The NBPA seeks to ensure that Trayvon Martin's murder not go unpunished and the elimination of the injustices suffered by the innocent.
This statement isn't just about opening up a national dialogue, but putting Zimmerman through a more extensive investigation process and making sure that Lee (who stepped down on a temporary basis) will not run a police department ever again. This isn't a vague message — the NBPA is saying what it wants done on behalf of its member players and executives.
The Martin case is no longer a fringe issue — once President Barack Obama made a comment, it became the sort of thing that public figures are expected to have an opinion on. Yet it's still notable that NBA players, who historically have been wary of taking strong political stands as a group, would call for direct action. While certain players have made political comments before (see Ira Newble on the genocide in Sudan, or Etan Thomas on all sorts of things), they tend to shy away from doing anything that might jeopardize their earning power. Any stance, no matter how simple or necessary it might be, deserves notice.