The issue of violence in America has come front and center in the world of professional sports this year. Athletes like Colin Kaepernick and others have made symbolic protests against racial profiling and black inequality, while NBA stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade have taken a more general stance against the gun violence plaguing our cities.
New Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington has also joined the fray, using his own personal tragedy to spread a message of peace to today’s impressionable youth. Speaking to a local high school on Monday, Ellington shared the story of how his father was shot to death by an assailant in 2014:
“Still grieving and it’s still fresh,” Ellington said. “But I just realized I’ve got to do as much as I can to make a difference. Every day, it’s happening to a different family, to somebody’s son, to somebody’s father. So this stage I’m on, this platform I’m on, I want to make use of it as much as I can for as long as I’m on it to raise as much awareness as I can.”
“You don’t have to take that direction,” Ellington says, as dozens of kids stare right at him, many of them nodding. “There’s so many other opportunities out there for you. There’s so many other different ways to solve a problem, to solve a conflict. We need to come together as people. We need to love each other. We need to find ways to help each other. That’s what I’m here to do.”
With the 2016-2017 season looming, the league has been bracing itself for the types of protests Kaepernick and others have made headlines for in recent months. But speaking engagements like Ellington’s might signal a different, more multifaceted form of activism. For instance, Wade, Anthony, and DeMarcus Cousins all hosted or participated in panels this summer designed to spark dialogue on the issues facing their communities.
Several other players have been circumspect when asked whether they plan to protest the national anthem prior to games; although, it’s clear that it’s a topic on everyone’s mind and something that will permeate the discourse throughout the coming season.