MIAMI (AP) – Dwyane Wade and LeBron James were only a few miles away from Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, participating in the NBA All-Star game on the night the unarmed black teenager wearing a hooded sweatshirt was shot to death by a neighborhood crime-watch volunteer.
They never knew the teenager, but on Friday they decided it was time to speak out.
Wade posted a photo of himself from a previous photo shoot wearing a hooded shirt, otherwise known as a hoodie, to his Twitter and Facebook pages on Friday morning.
A couple hours later, James posted another photo – this one of the Heat team, all wearing hoodies, their heads bowed, their hands stuffed into their pockets. The photo was taken at the team hotel, though it was not clear when it was snapped.
Among the hashtags James linked to the photo: “WeWantJustice.” The National Basketball Players Association issued a statement saying it was saddened and horrified by the killing, and accused the police department in Sanford, Fla. – where Martin was shot – of “racial bias.”
“As a father, this hits home,” said Wade, who has 10- and 4-year-old sons.
Martin was killed as he was returning to a gated community, carrying candy and iced tea. A neighborhood crime-watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, said he acted in self-defense. He has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are still investigating.
Protests have popped up nationwide in recent days, with thousands of people – many of them wearing hoodies – calling for action.
“This situation hit home for me because last Christmas, all my oldest son wanted as a gift was hoodies,” Wade told The Associated Press on Friday from Auburn Hills, Mich., where the Heat were to play the Detroit Pistons. “So when I heard about this a week ago, I thought of my sons. I’m speaking up because I feel it’s necessary that we get past the stereotype of young, black men and especially with our youth.”
Wade and James decided Thursday to make their reactions about the Martin situation public, and James felt the best way to do that was the team photo with everyone wearing hoodies.
“Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones of Trayvon Martin for their loss and for everyone involved in this terrible tragedy,” the Heat said in a statement Friday afternoon. “We support our players and join them in hoping that their images and our logo can be part of the national dialogue and can help in our nation’s healing.”
Earlier Friday, Fox News Channel commentator Geraldo Rivera said on “Fox & Friends” the hoodie Martin wore when he was killed was as much responsible for his death as the man who shot him. Rivera later said his comment was “politically incorrect.”
Separately, a Florida state lawmaker, Rep. Alan Williams, a Democrat from Tallahassee, urged the Heat stars – along with New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, a central Florida native – in an early Friday post on Twitter to wear hoodies during pregame warmups to call attention to the Martin story.
Such a move would not be permitted under the NBA’s uniform policy, although Heat players are planning to pay tribute to Martin in some manner when they face the Pistons on Friday night.
“When you see Trayvon, when you see that image, he could be anybody’s kid, black or white, Hispanic, Asian, what have you,” Williams said in a telephone interview. “Basketball is a sport that kind of transcends race and class and all those things that divide us. For me, as a state representative, we have to go beyond the traditional routes that some people would take.”
The NBPA called not only for Zimmerman’s “prompt arrest,” but a review of the Sanford Police Department.
“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 said. “The NBPA seeks to ensure that Trayvon Martin’s murder not go unpunished and the elimination of the injustices suffered by the innocent.”