As if 2020 could not get any worse, this past week shed light on a deeply-rooted, recurring American issue—continuous and systemic racism and police brutality.
On Monday evening, Minneapolis police offer Derek Chauvin—who had 18 prior complaints filed against him within the Minneapolis Police Department—pinned George Floyd down with his knee on Floyd’s neck, killing the 46-year-old African-American man.
The police were responding to a situation in which Floyd was suspected of using a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for his groceries, a non-violent crime. Floyd was eventually arrested and restrained faced down, crying out “please, I can’t breathe” with onlookers pleading for the officer to stop.
“I CAN’T BREATHE” is the exact slogan that circulated in the NBA six years ago, when Derrick Rose wore a warm-up shirt with the infamous phrase. Rose was protesting the death of Eric Garner, who was fatally choked by a police officer in Staten Island, and his action sparked other NBA players to speak up about injustices involving police brutality in black communities.
Six years later, we find ourselves with the same injustice at hand. This time, it’s George Floyd, not Eric Garner, or Tamir Rice, or Trayvon Martin, or Philando Castile, or Walter Scott. The list goes on and on, but one aspect remains constant: members of the black community overwhelmingly continue to fall victim to police brutality.
As the most progressive league in professional sports, the NBA has spoken up once again. Led by the players themselves, there has been an active call to demand justice and fight on behalf of George Floyd.
Former NBA champion Stephen Jackson, a childhood friend of George Floyd, spoke out during a press conference: “To my white brothers, I love you. Every race here, I love you. But it comes to a point now, where if you love me and you not standing on the side of me, then your love don’t mean shit.”
Just weeks after his mother died of COVID-19, Karl Anthony-Towns stood in solitude as Jackson paid tribute to his “twin” George Floyd.
LeBron James posted a series of Instagram photos to raise awareness to the situation, starting with a post paying respect to Colin Kaepernick—who knelt in protest during the national anthem to protest police brutality—before publishing a photo of himself in his “I CAN’T BREATHE” warmup with the caption “STILL!!!! 🤬😢😤”
Other players from around the league contributed their thoughts, emotions, ideas, and reactions, and it will be interesting to see what action is taken once the NBA reconvenes later this summer.