Houston Rockets guard Russell Westbrook was one of many NBA stars to stand up for a death row inmate believed to have been framed for murder in 2002.
Russell Westbrook has long been known for his work in the community, as we’ve seen the Houston Rockets superstar create programs designed for at-risk youths, donate laptops to schools in Houston and provide meals for less fortunate families. We’ve also seen the 2017 MVP purchase cars for struggling single parents, and the list goes on.
Simply put, Westbrook is just as much of an MVP off the court and he is on it. But Westbrook’s latest efforts could be greater than any of the selfless deeds he’s already developed a reputation for, which is saying a lot.
Westbrook’s latest acts of heroism are centered around Julius Jones, who was charged and convicted of first-degree murder in 2002. Jones contends that he didn’t commit the crime, meaning that he’s been sitting on death row for 18 years for a crime he didn’t commit.
According to ESPN writer Royce Young, Westbrook has joined a group of star NBA players that includes Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young, Detroit Pistons star Blake Griffin and Sacramento Kings star Buddy Hield to help the Julius Jones Coalition, which was founded by several activists and Jones’ loved ones.
Westbrook has been involved in sending letters to the Oklahoma Governor’s office in an attempt to use his star platform to help lead to Jones’ release.
Westbrook had the below to say in his letter, the full version of which can be found here:
“[Jones’] conviction was tainted by a deeply flawed process. As more details come to light regarding his situation, I join with many voices to express sadness and profound concern regarding his conviction and death sentence.”
The state of Oklahoma has had a history of mishandling executions, especially fairly recently. In 2015, it was determined that the state had botched the execution of Clayton Lockett, who, like Jones, is an African-American man.
The latter point is of extreme importance, not just because of the current climate of the country’s racial tension, which has led to numerous African-Americans getting killed by law enforcement, but because Jones also has experienced racism throughout his time fighting for his innocence, as pointed out by Westbrook.
“To hear that a juror allegedly used the N-word when referring to Julius during trial, yet remained on the jury,” Westbrook’s letter said, “is deeply disturbing to me.”
These kinds of situations are why it’s necessary for people around the world to continue to make their voices heard. Whether it be marching in the streets or fighting for justice behind-the-scenes, it’s clear Westbrook is not going to stop until some real changes start taking place.