“I can’t breathe” is a rallying cry among protesters across the country since New York Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted by a Staten Island jury for the homicide of Eric Garner. Now both professional and amateur athletes are wearing t-shirts emblazoned with “I Can’t Breathe” in bold letters.
It started with Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and was seen again two days later at a pregame between the Brooklyn Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers with Prince William and Duchess Kate in attendance. “I can’t breathe” are the last words Garner, 43-year-old husband and father, spoke while in a choke hold which led to his death.
Rose has often spoken about the violence he witnessed each day growing up in the Englewood community of Chicago. He said there was a time when he would not have worn the t-shirt, but becoming a parent changed his outlook on life.
“I had the shirt made, my best friend Randall brought it to the game, and I decided to wear it. It wasn’t any one [person’s] idea. I just thought I wanted to support something that happened. That’s what made me wear the shirt.”
When LeBron James was questioned about wearing the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirt, he said he wore it to support of the family Garner, 43, left behind.
“It’s a message to the family. You know, I’m sorry for their loss. That’s what it’s about. Everybody else gets caught up in everything else besides who is really feelin’ it. And that’s the family.”
Notre Dame women’s basketball team wore the t-shirts during pregame warm-ups in a game against Michigan. The starters then removed them, but the reserves left them on.
Attorney General Eric Holder weighed in on the effectiveness of professional athletes wearing the t-shirts.
“The star athletes are looked up to and whether they want to be or not, they are role models, they are seen as people who young men especially want to be like. For them to get out there and express in that way a social conscience, I think goes back to maybe people that these guys don’t even know or my son has a vague awareness of, to Jackie Robinson, who is seen as not only a great athlete, but as an involved, thinking, caring black man.”
Fox News commentator Gerald Rivera stated “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts are not helpful, and LeBron should have worn a t-shirt with another message like “be a better father.”
“It’s easy to demonstrate and be outraged when we are the victims. ‘Look what they are doing to us rather than what we are doing to ourselves.’ There is a king of urban suicide happening here that has to be dealt with.”
A critic notes that Rivera has been married five times and has children by three women, yet criticizes the black community’s issues. Recently, he tweeted a semi-nude selfie, and subsequently a speaking invitation from Duquesne University was revoked
“I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts hopefully won’t devolve into a fashion trend. If LeBron, a responsible father, or anyone else wants to wear t-shirts to stand in solidarity with families or protesters, who is Rivera to moralize about it?
[Image: AP via Time.com]