Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat aren’t the first athletes to use a photo to make a statement.
Gold medal swimmer Amanda Beard did it to much less fanfare four years ago in Beijing when she unveiled a nude poster of herself in front of an American flag in an anti-fur protest at the Olympics.
The Chinese weren’t happy about it, showing up at the hotel and shutting down a news conference before it began. Beard ended up displaying the poster in an impromptu gathering outside the athletes’ village, while police and security officials looked on.
Wade and the Heat faced no such problems. LeBron James posted a picture Friday that showed the team wearing hoodies, with each of the players’ heads bowed and hands in pockets — putting the image in front of his millions of Twitter followers.
Later that night, the Heat took the court in Detroit with slogans honoring slain teenager Trayvon Martin written on their shoes.
It was simple, yet dramatic. And it accomplished what Wade, James and others wanted — to bring even more attention to a case that has sparked a nationwide outcry.
“You never know, that could be your kid,” James said. “As leaders and as role models we’re happy we can shed the light on a situation we feel isn’t right.”
If it seems personal to the Heat, that’s because it is. James and Wade are both the fathers of two sons, and they played in the All-Star game on the same night when Martin — a black 17-year-old wearing a hoodie as he walked to a family home after buying some iced tea and candy — was shot to death by a community watch volunteer a few miles from Orlando’s Amway Arena.
The more they heard and read about the case, the more outrageous it seemed. The more they thought about it, the more they wanted their voices heard.
Nothing wrong with that, unless the slogans on their shoes draw attention from David Stern’s uniform police for violating the NBA’s strict guidelines. Even admirable, if you subscribe to the theory that they could be making enemies — or cost themselves shoe sales — by inserting themselves into a controversial case.
If Wade and James were making a statement, though, they made a very careful one. Unlike the NBA players’ union, they didn’t call for the resignation of the police chief in the Florida community where Martin was shot to death, or demand the immediate arrest of the person who shot him.
Instead, they talked as fathers with sons who ask for hoodies for Christmas.
And they talked about their hope that justice would be done.