What do you do when you read a story about a man in The New York Times who is wrongly accused of a crime?
The man is a former boxer. It's like "Hurricane" Carter all over again. Someone else reads that same story. That person is a friend of yours. But unlike you, he decides to do something about it.
"I read Gary Tyler's story and felt that I had to do something, I just couldn't sit on my ass and watch this man continue to serve time for something that he didn't do," author Dave Zirin told me. "So I started Jocks 4 Justice."
He set up an organization built to right the wrongs of the justice system and provide support from athletes for causes that often go overlooked and unheard. It's social consciousness of athletics without the politics. It builds public awareness and provides support for those who are in dire need, such as the cases of Tyler, and most recently Kenneth Foster Jr., who is scheduled to be executed Aug. 30 in Texas for a murder he didn't commit. Even though prosecutors know Foster didn't commit the murder, as an accomplice he's subject to the same sentence as if he had pulled the trigger under Texas law. Although Foster isn't an athlete or former athlete, J4J still feels the need to have a voice in his case.
The names that appear on J4J petitions fighting for justice? Tommie Smith, 1968 Olympic gold medalist; John Carlos, 1968 Olympic bronze medalist; Lee Evans, Olympic gold medalist; Rubin "Hurricane" Carter, boxer and author of "The 16th Round"; Etan Thomas, Washington Wizards center and author of "More Than an Athlete"; Jim Bouton, former New York Yankees pitcher and author of "Ball Four"; Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, former WBA light heavyweight champion and head of Joint Action for Boxers; David Meggyesy, former NFL linebacker and retired Western Regional Director, NFL Players Association; Jeff "Snowman" Monson, Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter; Toni Smith, former member of Manhattanville College women's basketball team; Dr. Phil Shinnick, member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic team; Bill "Spaceman" Lee, former Boston Red Sox pitcher and author of "The Wrong Stuff"; and others. And it's growing.
"Athletes have a voice," Zirin says. "But it's almost as if they have been conditioned not to use it. I wanted to provide something where collectively they would be able to speak and make significant change at the same time."
So what do you do when your friend asks for your signature?
Friday, August 17, 2007
Kenneth Foster on ESPN
Finally a Kenneth Foster support coalition called Jucks For Justice is getting some media attention. The following article is from ESPN's website. There is also a possible coverage on HBO's Real Sports in the coming weeks. Here is a 45 minute interview between Kenneth and KXAN from death-row. Even News4WOAI has some coverage too.