Saturday, March 24, 2012

Knicks, Heat, and NBPA show support for Trayvon Martin Martin

On the evening of February 26th, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was walking back to his girlfriend's house in Sanford, Florida after making a quick trip to a nearby store. Martin and his girlfriend had been watching basketball on television and he had left during a break in the game to get some snacks. As he was returning a man, George Zimmerman, noticed him and percieved him as suspicious. Zimmerman is a member of the community who takes the security of his neighborhood very seriously. Strict and observant of the neighborhood, Zimmerman was attending school to reach his goal of joining the police force (however due to the shooting he has recently been expelled). Zimmerman after spotting Martin, he made a call to the police department, something Zimmerman often did. While talking to dispatch, Zimmerman described Martin as “a real suspicious guy” who looked like “he was on drugs.”

Martin realized that he was being watched and took off running. Perhaps he was annoyed by Zimmerman, or he himself felt endangered. Zimmerman ran after Trayvon while he was still on the phone with dispatch. Dispatch told Zimmerman he did not need to chase Martin, but Zimmerman continued anyways.

From this point on it's not exactly clear what happened. Trayvon's girlfriend, who was talking to him on the phone, said that Martin got sick of Zimmerman following him and confronted him. She heard sometype of struggle and Martin's phone went dead, likely after being dropped. A struggle of some sort did occur between Martin and Zimmerman resulting with Martin being fatally wounded. Witnesses report varying stories where Martin may have been to strike Zimmerman. Both were injured but Martin was of course injured much more seriously. Shot by Zimmerman. Martin was armed only with a can of Arizona Ice Tea, and a bag of Skittles. Zimmerman was better suited with his legally owned nine millimeter. Police finally responded to Zimmerman's call and the numerous phone calls from neighbors. They attempted to resuscitate Martin. But by 7:30 p.m. that night Trayvon Martin was dead.

Martin was by all accounts a good kid. He earned solid grades, and was an athlete that played football for his high school. Described by others as cheerful, he was not known to be violent or a criminal. Many people, like his loved ones and teachers, considered him to be an upstanding individual. His biggest sin was perhaps recently being suspended from school for a reason that is not quite clear. Some accuse Martin of getting into a fight, which was denied. Other say it was a lesser violation. According to his mother it was due to him being late to school too often. Either way, Martin had likely not committed a major violation of any sort. Martin had dreams. He sought to become an aviation mechanic and was looking at attending college at several local universities including Florida A&M.

Zimmerman's preconceived notions, and paranoia led him to a confrontation that resulted in the death of a young man who had done nothing wrong. If Zimmerman had minded his own business or let police handle the situation it is likely Martin would still be alive today. A young man who had a bright future and a stepbrother on the way. As of now, Zimmerman has yet to be charged with any crime. At the time of the incident, Zimmerman claimed he acted in self defense and the police agreed with his assessment. This has sparked an outrage that has resulted in continued protests across the country and many speaking up for Martin.

Recently criticism has escalated with increased pressure for the police to do something. Student walkouts and protests have reached their height. Protesters yesterday were joined by members of the NBA and The NBPA including two prominent New York players. It started when LeBron James tweeted a photo of the entire Heat team donning hoodies in memory of Trayvon Martin who wearing a hoodie when he was shot (to which Geraldo Rivera blames for his death). Later that day, the National Basketball Players Association released a statement supporting the Martin family and calling for the arrest of Zimmerman.

Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony followed suit offering support by posting photos of themselves in hoodies. Amare tweeted that he was standing up for Trayvon.

In the end, it's great to see NBA players supporting important social matters. These guys can provide more attention to various important causes by doing something as minor as wearing a hoodie. Going forward it is unclear how these actions by the players and protests by the community will affect the final outcome. Zimmerman may not end up in jail. But social pressure often leads to some form of justice and many in America, myself included, hope Trayvon Martin gets his justice.

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