Trayvon Martin case gets athletes involved. Plus, a timeline

By// Quinn Peterson

The story of the shooting of Trayvon Martin has proven to be so moving and powerful that mass support has poured in from a broad contingent.

In recent days, thanks in large part to social media and the internet, 17-year-old Martin’s case has moved from an overlooked tragedy to front-page news — where it belonged the whole time.

Friday was particularly significant in bringing attention to the case, as President Barack Obama spoke out in support of Martin’s family.

Moreover, in a move far too rare among today’s Black athletes, LeBron James and the Miami Heat made a statement by posing for a photo with their hoods up. Heat guard Dwyane Wade also posted a photo wearing a hoodie to both his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

On Friday night, Wade and James wore sneakers with a shoutout in tribute to Martin written on them during their game against the Detroit Pistons.

Other players, such as New York Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire, have made similar gestures, as well — a la John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s Black Power and human rights salute at the 1968 Olympic games.

Decades removed from when Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Muhammad Ali and other Black athletes used their voices to speak out against injustice in America, it was refreshing to see some of today’s biggest stars show that they are aware and mindful of what is going on in society.

While Twitter was a positive haven for spreading the word on Friday, it was also home to Fox News commentator Geraldo Rivera’s widely criticized comments, in which he blamed Martin’s decision to wear a hood for his death.

The Twitterverse and many notable writers and activists, including Roland Martin and Marc Lamont Hill, expressed their displeasure with Rivera’s remarks.

There’s still much of this story left to unfold, but take a look at how the Martin case has transpired thus far.


Feb. 26: Trayvon Martin took a break from watching the NBA All-Star game at the home of his father’s fiancee in a gated community in Sanford, Fla. to walk to a convenience store. He went to get an iced tea for himself and some Skittles for his future kid brother; it was raining when he started on his way back home. During that walk the unarmed, hoodie-wearing Martin was shot dead allegedly by Neighborhood Watch captain, George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old college student majoring in criminal justice. Zimmerman was questioned, but not arrested, claiming he shot the teen in self-defense, according to police.

March 17: Three weeks after the shooting and the case’s rise to national prominence, the Sanford, Florida officials finally acquiesce to pressure from the family and the public and make the 9-1-1 tapes from the night of the shooting public. The calls include Zimmerman’s initial call to the Sanford police, as well as calls from nearby residents reporting screams and gunfire.

In Zimmerman’s call to the police, he stated, “this guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs, or something.”

“Are you following him?” the police dispatcher asked.

“Yeah,” Zimmerman responded.

“OK, we don’t need you to do that.”

Zimmerman disregarded those instructions. Many have since observed that it sounds as if Zimmerman uses a racial slur under his breath while on the phone.

March 19: The FBI, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement launch an investigation into Martin’s case.

The Martin family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, talks to Trayvon’s 16-year-old girlfriend, who was on the phone with him up until the time he was shot.

“He said this man was watching him,” she said.

“Trayvon said, ‘What are you following me for,’ and the man said, ‘What are you doing here.’ Next thing I hear is somebody pushing, and somebody pushed Trayvon because the head set just fell. I called him again, and he didn’t answer the phone.”

March 21: Three out of five Sanford city commissioners give votes of “no confidence” against Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee.

The case reaches fever pitch, as 900,000+ people sign a petition calling for the arrest of Martin’s killer.

Hundreds of protesters, including Martin’s parents, gather in New York city for a “Million Hoodie March,” in support of Trayvon. Thousands of others begin posting pictures of themselves in hoodies on Twitter and other social media networks.

Trayvon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, attend the demonstration, where chants of “we want arrests” and signs that read: “100 years of lynching, justifiable homicide. Same thing” were part of the mix. Fulton tells the crowd, “My heart is in pain, but to see the support of all of you really makes a difference.”

March 22: Amid the turmoil, Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee announces he is temporarily stepping down from his position.

Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, meet with the region’s U.S. attorney and deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights in Washington and the head of the FBI’s Tampa office to discuss the investigation.

Florida governor Rick Scott announces that the local state attorney, Norman Wolfinger, has recused himself from the case.

Thousands attend a rally orchestrated by the Rev. Al Sharpton at First Shiloh Baptist Church in Sanford, continuing the demand for Zimmerman’s arrest.

“We cannot allow a precedent when a man can just kill one of us … and then walk out with the murder weapon,” Sharpton tells the crowd.

Regular folk as well as public figures posted photos of themselves in hoodies to Facebook and Twitter including former Michigan governor, Jennifer Granholm and Marian Wright Edelman, who heads the Children’s Defense Fund.

Edelman: “I wanted to protest that Walking While Black and wearing a hoodie should lead to a death sentence in America.”

Granholm: “The hoodie is a way of expressing support for the Martin family, and for all the sons of African-American families who bear the heavy burden of other people’s negative assumptions.”

March 23:President Barack Obama speaks out about Martin’s case, saying, “when I think about this boy, I think about my own kids. I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this.”

He also says, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

50 schools in Florida staged walk-outs, while the petition surpassed 1.5 million signatures.

Several celebrities remained vocal about the situation, including LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat, who posed for a team photo with their heads down and hoods up in honor of Trayvon and in call for Zimmerman’s arrest. The National Basketball Player’s Association issued an official statement on the situation, saying: “The NBPA is saddened and horrified by the tragic murder of Mr. Martin and joins in the chorus of calls from across the nation for the prompt arrest of George Zimmerman.”

Wade told the Associated Press on Friday that “When I heard about this a week ago, I thought of my sons. I’m speaking up because I feel it’s necessary that we get past the stereotype of young Black men, and especially with our youth.”

Protests and marches have been held in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, and other cities, as well, with much support coming from their respective “Occuy Wall Street” movements.

March 24: Protests in cities across the country continue.

Contributing: Associated Press