Players Coalition founder Anquan Boldin, along with 62 current and former professional athletes — including Tom Brady — sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, asking for the Justice Department to investigate Ahmaud Arbery’s death, citing decades-long ties between law enforcement and Arbery’s murderers, Travis and Greg McMichael.
The letter read:
“Two months ago, two white men, Travis and Greg McMichael, tragically gunned down Mr. Arbery as he went on his daily jog. We have all now seen the video depicting the final moments of this young man’s life and the way in which the McMichaels stalked Mr. Arbery like prey. It is a tragedy in itself that someone needed to release what should have been a very private video to spark any movement on this case.
“The local investigation into this case is marred by conflicts, inaction, (George) Barnhill’s very deliberate attempt to ensure that Mr. Arbery received no justice, and the current prosecutor’s total failure to act until social media forced his hand….The Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the FBI includes prosecutors and investigators in the country skilled with reviewing the work of local agencies and intervening on behalf of its citizens…
“His only crime: running while black.”
Arbery would have turned 26 today had he not been gunned down while jogging in Brunswick, Ga. Arbery was a standout football and basketball player at Brunswick High School, following in his brother Marcus Jr.’s footsteps. He even took to wearing No. 21, just as his big bro.
Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis, 34, were arrested Thursday night, charged with murder and aggravated assault for the Feb. 23 killing of Arbery. The incident sparked national outrage this week as video of the murder surfaced, drawing comparisons to the 2012 shooting of Trayvon Martin. The elder McMichael is a former Glynn County police officer and district attorney investigator.
This week has been a pivotal moment in professional athlete activism.
Current and former NBA players such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony expressed outrage for the way black victims are treated in the justice system when the perpetrator is white. In 2013, LeBron and the Miami Heat wore hoodies to protest the Trayvon Martin case, and in 2014 NBA players also wore “I can’t breathe” warm up T-shirts in light of the final words Eric Garner uttered as he was dragged to the ground in a chokehold at the hands of a New York City detective.
New Orleans Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins posted on Friday that he was jogging 2.23 miles in solidarity with the Arbery family’s “Dedication Distance Run.”
Today’s superstars are a far cry from 30 years ago. The latest installment of The Last Dance reminded us that Michael Jordan didn’t want to take stands for social justice because “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Boldin, James, Jenkins and Anthony are a different breed of athlete who want their voices to make a difference.
Pro athletes have played a role in the fight for equality and social justice going all the way back to the era of Jackie Robinson. This week has shown us that Robinson’s spirit lives on, as the best athletes in the world are still willing to use their platform to demand justice.