Last year, James — who donned a hoodie in honor of Trayvon Martin with Heat teammates in 2012 — said Rice’s death showed “how much further we still have to go,” according to Cleveland.com.
Using the hashtag #NoJusticeNoLebron, activists, led by writer Tariq Touré, have unleashed a Twitter campaign asking the NBA superstar to put his season on hold until the Department of Justice — which is investigating the fatal November 2014 shooting — “imprisons the murderers of Tamir Rice.”
Some supporters of the campaign cited the successful ouster of former University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe — aided by striking university football players — as an example of the inherent power of athletes to influence change. Others posted videos of iconic boxer Muhammad Ali and his refusal to be drafted into the Army.
“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?” Ali famously asked.
“I ain’t got no quarrel with them Viet Cong,” he added.
James has not responded to the request in public or on Twitter, leading some activists to suggest times have changed.
“We wouldn’t have to tweet Muhammad Ali,” Kwame Rose tweeted.
The effort has split Rice supporters on social media, though, with some questioning whether the request is a fair burden to place on an individual.
After being convicted of draft evasion, Ali was stripped of his heavyweight title, sentenced to five years in prison and banned from the sport for three years. Although Ali avoided jail time, he was fined $10,000.
While riding the bench might be an powerful symbolic gesture unprecedented for an athlete of his stature, James isn’t facing jail time and a hypothetical departure from the sport — while causing contractual disputes — would have no bearing on the DOJ.
Pointing to the University of Missouri as an example presents problems as well. Football players, along with other students activists, were able to force the Wolfe’s ouster because it hinged upon one man’s decision instead of plodding investigation or a legal decision.