Some of LeBron James' biggest fans want him to stop playing basketball for a while.
Using the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLeBron, a group of activists have been tweeting at the Cleveland Cavaliers star. Supporters of the hashtag say that James should sit out games to protest a grand jury decision to not indict two white Cleveland police officers who shot and killed Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who had a pellet gun.
In a postgame interview Tuesday, James said that he wasn’t familiar with recent developments in Tamir Rice’s case. “I haven't really been on top of this issue,” he said. “So it's hard for me to comment.”
Reactions on social media were mixed, even among activists. Some thought James had no responsibility to take any political action. Others expressed disappointment that James, who had previously spoken about the deaths of Tamir Rice and Eric Garner, even going as far as to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt in response to the latter case, did not take the opportunity to make a statement.
James is not the only person who has faced criticism in his response to the decision in Cleveland. When asked about the Rice case in an interview with ABC News, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush initially confused the case with another controversy, responding that “Chicago has a lot of work to rebuild trust.” When reminded that the case happened in Cleveland, Bush replied, “My bad,” and replied only in broad terms, speaking again about rebuilding trust.
As the discussion about a possible LeBron James protest circled online, one journalist observed on Twitter that people weren’t asking for Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love or owner Dan Gilbert -- both of whom are white -- to lead a boycott.
Touré says he understands that a disproportionate pressure is often put on black athletes. But, he says, that “comes with the territory” of being a black athlete, and part of a society that has at times been pushed by high-profile figures such as Muhammad Ali, who famously refused the draft for the war in Vietnam. Because LeBron James is also from Ohio and has spoken out about police brutality in the past, he is in a perfect position to lead a boycott, Touré said.
Even if James does not stage a protest, Touré says he still appreciates his work, on and off the court. He was impressed by James’ 2014 pledge to fund four-year scholarships for students at the University of Akron. But he thinks that James could inspire even more young people -- many of whom might not think college is an option for them -- by protesting, and showing that he is concerned about their safety.