By Kaitlyn D’Onofrio
Cleveland Cavaliers star forward LeBron James was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year for the second time. He is the second athlete to receive the recognition twice.
James used the honor as a platform to address social justice issues — not only in his acceptance speech but also in his photo on the cover of Sports Illustrated. For the photo James wore a safety pin on his shirt. The safety pin has become a silent but important political symbol since the election. According to The New York Times:
LeBron James wears a safety pin on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
“After the election of Donald J. Trump, fears are growing that segments of his base may physically or emotionally abuse minorities, immigrants, women and members of the L.G.B.T. community. As a show of support, groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable.”
James has been vocal when it comes to political and social justice issues. And in his speech on Monday, he acknowledged the athletes who were also activists that allowed him to be as successful as he is today.
“This award is for the great Muhammad Ali, for Bill Russell, for Jim Brown, for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, because at the end of the day I’m not standing up here if you four gentleman, Kareem, Jim Brown, Muhammad, Bill, sit at that table in the 1960’s, and it wasn’t about you guys. It wasn’t about you guys; the most four dominant athletes at that time didn’t care what happened to them. They sacrificed everything that could have happened to them. [They] could have been stripped of everything that they’ve accomplished to that point,” James said.
“But their calling and their reasoning for doing what they had to do was for a night like tonight,” he continued. “That in 2016, in Brooklyn, New York, that we all can sit up here as African Americans, as white Americans, as Mexicans … that we all could sit in one room and just say wow, this is an unbelievable night, in not only sports but in life. So as I stand up here, as the recipient of the 2016 Sportsman of the Year, this isn’t about me. This is much bigger than me.”
“It’s never about the individual,” James added. “It’s always about the people behind him. It’s always about the people that’s behind the camera. It’s always about the people that [don’t] get the credit. It’s always about the people that always sacrifice what they think or what they believe they could be doing with their lives for the better of the individual.”
James has often spoke out regarding justice issues. Last week he and some of his fellow teammates refused to stay at the Trump SoHo hotel in New York while they were in town to play the New York Knicks. (Alternate arrangements were made for the players who do not want to stay at Trump SoHo, which bears Trump’s name through a licensing agreement although he does not own the hotel.)
During the election James endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, saying, “We need a president who brings us together and keeps us unified,” and “Policies and ideas that divide us more are not the solution.”
Over the summer, James and other high profile basketball players used the ESPY awards ceremony in Los Angeles as a platform for social justice.
“We all feel helpless and frustrated by the violence,” James said. “But that’s not acceptable. It’s time to look in the mirror and ask ourselves ‘What are we doing to create change'”