In The Scope: Botham Jean Tragedy Worthy Of Athlete Protest Movement

By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)

“What’s the price for a black man life? I check the toe tag, not one zero in sight. I turn the TV on, not one hero in sight, unless he dribble or he fiddle with mics.”“January 28th”

Rapper and activist J. Cole questioned America’s logic towards African-American males through his song January 28.

It is an unfortunate reality that we continue to experience today, and we are constantly reminded of that through police shootings, like the current murder case that featured former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger who this week was founded guilty for the murder of unarmed black man Botham Jean.

Although Guyger’s conviction could be viewed as a win for the African-American community and those committed to social justice, said justice wasn’t fully served after she only received a 10-year sentence, with option for parole available after half of the term based on good behavior, a sad dispersal of punishment that seemed way more intent to comfort Guyger than the many who were affected by the senseless murder she committed.

Partial justice is a common impediment forced onto the Black community by our institutions of justice, so I must ask: when are we as African-Americans going to get the full protections we deserve under the law? And for this murder case specifically, where is the call for justice coming from among the most influential of us — the professional athletic community?

Dr. James Baldwin once said, “…ask the wretched how they fare in the halls of justice, and then you will know, not whether or not the country is just, but whether or not it has any love for justice, or any concept of it. It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.”

In a country like America, we have every right to question the support of justice within our free land. Aside from our history of slavery and Jim Crow, African-Americans are still experiencing racial disputes. According to the NAACP, African-Americans are 5 times more likely to be incarcerated than any other race. Stanford University’s Open Policing Study showed that Black drivers were 20 percent more likely to get pulled over by police compared to white drivers.

In 16 states, state patrollers searched Blacks at a 3.8 percent rate compared to white drivers at 1.6 percent with white drivers being found with contraband substances 36 percent of the time, compared to Blacks with 32 percent. 

Cases like Guyger are not foreign. Chicago experienced similar instances with the Laquan McDonald murder case that only gave the convicted police officer 7 years in prison, and 3 of his collegues that reportedly covered up the shooting walked away free, when each of them should be serving life-prison sentences. We also cannot overlook other various police shootings that ended in murder tragedies like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and Tamir Rice, or police brutality incidents that ended in death like Eric Garner and Freddie Gray. 

Police brutality and the lack of accountability amongst the police officers involved have always been a topic that not just received national publicity, but also national outcry in protest of the court system’s terms of justice. NFL players like Eric Reid, Malcolm Jenkins and Richard Sherman also used their platforms to protest against those injustices. NBA Players like Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, just to name a few, have at some point utilized their million-dollar plus platforms to create discussion across the league to highlight social justice, and the NBA has backed their support. 

Athletes made statements and spoke up for Martin, Brown and Garner, but where are their outcry statements for Botham Jean?  

Jay-Z, hip-hop rapper/influencer, activist, entrepenuar and businessman joined forces with the NFL to improve its social justice initiatives. However, the initiative does not involve the man that started the blackballed/protest movement within the league a.k.a Colin Kaepernick.

With Kaepernick being unemployed and purposely held out of the league the past few years, how can he not be involved with the social justice initiative. There was a lot of outcry against Jay-Z’s choice to join the white man’s wave, especially from players like Reid and Kenny Stills, but where are the outcry statements for Botham Jean? 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The correlation between the triangle of Guyger and McDonald’s murder cases and Jay-Z’s NFL partnership is that partial justice was implemented and executed. However, that does not support the true meanings of social justice. These injustices are threates to justice everywhere within everyone representing the African-American community. 

I call all athletes to speak out against the injustice of the privileged sentencing Guyger received. Justice is a term that magnifies a behavior. It calls upon action for the term to be fully complete. For years, African-Americans never had the luxury of experiencing a full, free life in the supposed land of the free.

Although we continue to experience injustices everywhere, we must continue the fight of social justice and not deny our calls to action as American citizens. And activists must continue to utilize their platforms to promote justice in any way possible, athletes included, until we get the full justice we truly deserve. 

Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media 

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