Chicago Bulls guard Dwyane Wade has recently spoken against rising gun violence in his hometown, but the statistical trend became personal on Friday, when his cousin was shot.
Mr. Wade, one of several athletes who have begun working against the rise in urban violence, has said the shootings reveal a fragmented society that must re-learn the importance of putting others in the community first.
"We kind of adopted that mentality that, 'It's about me surviving,' " Wade said, discussing Chicago's history. "It's important for all of us to help each other."
Wade's cousin, Nykea Aldridge, was fatally shot while pushing a baby stroller on the way to register her three other children for school, the Associated Press reported. Two nearby men who began shooting at a third man hit her by accident. Her four children are unhurt and are in the care of other relatives.
On Saturday, Donald Trump, who has argued in recent speeches that African Americans are worse off under Democrats, tweeted the shooting would help his campaign.
Actor Don Cheadle and other Trump critics responded that Mr. Trump was out of line.
Wade had spoken out against gun violence at a town hill meeting just the day before, and although he was not in Chicago, he issued a tweet about the tragic accident.
He said in a video interview that the community's mentality "goes way back" to the Great Migration, when difficult circumstances and too-few opportunities for jobs and education divided the community. People adopted a survival mentality, he said, rather than helping each other.
"It's important for all of us to help each other and to go back and say, 'When did this start?' or 'How did this start?'," Wade said, emphasizing the need for individuals to focus more on their collective good than their individual success.
Wade grew up in the Chicago South Side, ESPN reported. His mother, who sold drugs in her youth, has become a pastor who often works alongside her son in efforts to help the community.
"We’re still going to try to help and empower people like the one who senselessly shot my niece in the head," Jolinda Wade said. "We’re going to try to help these people to transform their minds and give them a different direction."
Athletes are increasingly choosing to speak about the problem of violence in their communities. Many of Wade's teammates have also spoken out about the problem. The list includes former Chicago Bull Michael Jordan, who broke a long-held silence in July with a $2 million donation – $1 million each to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and the Institute for Community-Police Relations – and a nuanced statement about both supporting good policing and improving race relations, reported The Christian Science Monitor's Patrik Jonsson.
“Over the past three decades I have seen up close the dedication of the law enforcement officers who protect me and my family. I have the greatest respect for their sacrifice and service,” Mr. Jordan said in the statement. “I also recognize that for many people of color, their experiences with law enforcement have been different than mine. I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change."
The statements, donations, and work by these well-respected athletes have been well-received by most Americans, many of whom, like Jordan, are struggling to respond to the troubling crime trends.
"You can no longer say Jordan keeps his social views private,” writes Sam Laird, on Mashable. “And you can’t deny that now – more than ever – America needs its entertainer-leaders of all political views to promote unity and healing, not push division and fear.”