As I have said before, another time, and yet again, there is much more to the world than sports. Sports are a fun thing. They provide many great moments to fans, tons of memories to kids and even adults, and jobs to many people. Even if you don't get paid to have an involvement in sports (like me), you can still voice your opinions (like me). This is all great, but when something more than sports comes up, it deserves more attention. Something like what is going on in Darfur, Sudan. Or what is happening in Tibet. I have some opinions on this, and I am going to share them with you.
Do you see that? It is not from a movie. It is not a drawing. That is a picture taken in Darfur. I won't go into it, because I think you can see what it is without my help. But I will give you some background information on what is happening. The conflict in Darfur began in 2003. The Janjaweed tribe is a millita on one side of the conflict. The other side has multiple parts to it, which I won't go into. Basically, the Janjawed are causing destruction everywhere. They have gone around killing many and displacing many more. So far, the estimates have been that over 400,000 people have died and more than 2.5 million people have been displaced and more than 1,000 villages have been burned. The government of Sudan has backed the Janjaweed, and have supplied them with artillery, they have participated in attacks against their own people, and they have killed many witnesses in order to try and cover up what is going on. To see for yourself, you can go to www.savedarfur.org and check it out.
The United States has done a few things to help out. But that is from no thanks to the government. Now, this doesn't matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican. The government has classified it as a genocide. They have sent some supplies. But most of this comes from organizations, and through Americans who work for this. Celebrities, athletes, politicians; they've all gotten involved. But compared to what the United States government can do, and what they have done, it is ridiculous.
So how does this tie into athletics right now? The Olympics are starting soon, and they are taking place in China. China has gotten oil from Sudan and been involved with the conflict. By involved, they have backed the Janjaweed and the government of Sudan by supplying them. So when athletes who are participating in the Olympic Games started to speak about this, it caused some attention, as it should have. Last year, Cleveland Cavalier Ira Newble wrote a letter about this. He encouraged his teammates to sign it, and all but two of them did. Those two were Damon Jones, and LeBron James. Funny how nobody remembers than Damon Jones didn't sign it either. Anyway, LeBron did not sign it, citing that he wanted to learn more about the issue before he takes a stand on it.
That is a perfectly reasonable thing to say. LeBron knew it was important and that it was a very big deal, so he wanted to gather more information on it. Was this the best decision under those circumstances? No. But was it an acceptable decision? Yes. So, what happens? LeBron is ripped by everyone. The media, the fans, everybody. He's selfish, he doesn't care about others, he doesn't care about making a difference, he just wants money. Well, LeBron James later came out and spoke about it, and he spoke about it in a big way.
"At the end of the day, we're talking about human rights. And people should understand that human rights and people's lives are in jeopardy. We're not talking about contracts here. We're not talking about money. We're talking about people's lives being lost and that means a lot more to me than money or a contract". That is what LeBron James said about it all. Now, how can you not respect that? This guy didn't sign the letter, but he came back to say something like this. You can say that 'Oh well, that's not true' or that 'LeBron doesn't actually care about lives' or that 'LeBron is all about the money'. Is LeBron James my favorite athlete? No, I am not on the multi-million person, worldwide bandwagon. He isn't my favorite player, and I don't think he is the next Michael Jordan. But I am now a fan of his. Not because of his ability to dominate basketball games, but because of the fact that he knows there is more to life than sports.
Now, here is where I am annoyed with the United States, and where the title of this blog comes in. LeBron James spoke out about what is going on in Darfur. Kobe Bryant spoke out about it, and you can watch that. Steve Nash, Grant Hill, Ira Newble, Derek Fisher and many others have spoken about this. But I am foucusing on Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.
With Kobe, you can love him or hate him. Many people love him, and even more love to hate him. From what happened in Colorado, to him talking about his teammates, to his problems with his teammates, Kobe doesn't exactly have the best reputation. But more than love or hate, you have to respect the guy. It's not just respect as a basketball player, because I do have a lot of respect for him as a player; the guy is amazing. But I can't help but to respect him for speaking out about this.
And what happens? The next time they were asked about it, they weren't talking about it. "We're not politicians. We're not government officials" said Kobe. "We're here to play basketball" said LeBron. What?!?! What happened to what they were saying before? Well, obviously something happened. And I'm going to guess that the USA Basketball Committee had something to do with it. Why else would they suddenly stop talking? What probably happened was that some of the guys who call the shots sat down with Kobe and LeBron and said something to the extent of "We want to win a Gold Medal. We need to win Gold at these Olympics. So don't talk about other things anymore, alright?". That might not be the situation, but it has to be something with the USA Basketball Committee talking to them. Why?
Let's face it; Darfur is a huge problem. People are dying everyday, and something needs to be done. LeBron speaking about it would be a huge help. This guy is the most marketable athlete in the world. He is a superstar who is still young. He is well liked. He's got deals from Nike, Coca-Cola and other big name, worldwide companies. They made a shirt that says "WITNESS", and they made a ton through it. When LeBron talks, people listen. When LeBron does something, people follow. So you better believe that is LeBron is making a big deal out of this, other people would make a big deal about it.
This isn't a small stage, either. The Olympics are one of the biggest events in the world. It isn't through the United States, North America, or even more. This is a worldwide event. It would be seen and heard by millions. People in South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, everybody would know about it. It could turn out to be one of the biggest things in the world this year. Instead, it will probably turn out to be nothing. Why? Who knows? But why is this happening like this? What is wrong with the United States of America?
"What they say is entirely up to them" says Jerry Colangelo. Yeah? For every Deron Williams assist, someone is going to die. For every Chris Paul steal, someone is going to die. For every Dwight Howard dunk, someone is going to die. Coach Mike Kryzweski is a great coach, and he may lead Team USA to a Gold Medal, but he certaintly won't be leading an outspoken group of athletes.
As the picture says, "WE ARE ALL WITNESSES". What we are witnessing is something much bigger than LeBron James. It is much bigger than basketball. It is much bigger than sports. Things happened, and more things happened to change the course. The Olympics are happening, and I can bet that somehow, something will be made of this. We need to make something happen, because if not, it defnitely will be regretted. Regretted by how many? I don't know; but it will be regretted by many. So if actions are not taken, we will be witnessing much more than a worldwide superstar growing up. We will be witnessing the wrongful death of numerous more people.