From LeBron James to Odell Beckham Jr., a host of high-profile athletes have spoken out against the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died on Monday just hours after being arrested in Minneapolis.
The 46-year-old’s death sparked outrage across the U.S. after several videos emerged of a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for many minutes while making the arrest. In one of the videos, Floyd can be heard saying he’s unable to breathe, before seemingly losing consciousness.
An outspoken critic of social injustice and police brutality, James posted a split picture on Instagram juxtaposing the officer kneeling on Floyd side-by-side with Colin Kaepernick kneeling before an NFL game.
“Do you understand NOW!!??!!?? Or is it still blurred to you??,” the three-time NBA champion wrote as a caption.
Kaepernick first knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination in 2016. The gesture transformed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback into a global icon, but split public opinion in the U.S. and contributed to him being ostracized by the league.
Beckham Jr. and Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell both described Floyd’s death as “sickening,” while former NBA forward Stephen Jackson described Floyd as his “twin” in an Instagram post and vowed to seek justice.
“I promise I won’t let this BS ride. Already talked to [civil rights activist] @shaunking. […] Can’t let this ride. All hands on deck. Rest Easy Twin,” he wrote.
Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence said Floyd’s death cast further doubt over the safety of African American people in the U.S.
“[I’m] done being quiet and [I’m] done being angry,” he tweeted. “How can we feel safe when those meant to protect us are killing us? When will minorities be free to be Americans in America?”
Speaking on a conference call with media on Wednesday, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt also spoke out against Floyd’s death.
“I think it’s disgusting,” Watt was quoted as saying by NFL Network. “I think that there’s no explanation for it. For me it doesn’t make any sense. I just don’t see how a man in handcuffs, on the ground, who is clearly detained and clearly saying [he’s] in distress […] I just don’t understand how that situation can’t be remedied in a way that doesn’t end in his death.
“I think that it needs to be addressed strongly obviously […] I don’t know how you can defend it. It’s terrible. It’s extremely difficult to watch and it’s upsetting.”
Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill said: “Everyone deserves to feel safe & protected in their communities […] it’s on us to use our voices and actions to make that happen. What happened is completely unacceptable.”
Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr echoed the thought.
“This is murder. Disgusting. Seriously, what the hell is wrong with US?,” he wrote on Twitter.
Andrew Bogut, who played under Kerr for the Warriors, added: “This George Floyd video is sad man! Who in their right mind thinks kneeling on someones neck for 10 minutes is warranted? Hope that cop gets charged with murder. Disgusting. Just Horrible.”
Four Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired on Monday by the city mayor, Jacob Frey.
“Four responding MPD officers involved in the death of George Floyd have been terminated,” he wrote on Twitter as he announced the decision. “This is the right call.”
In a statement released on Monday, the MPD said Floyd was arrested after four officers responded to a call about a man attempting to use forged documents at a Cup Foods supermarket near 38th Street and Chicago Avenue.
According to the statement, the victim appeared intoxicated when officers found him in his car. Once he was handcuffed, Floyd began showing symptoms of “medical distress,” which prompted the officers to call for medical assistance.
“Officers called for an ambulance. He was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center by ambulance where he died a short time later,” the statement reads. “At no time were weapons of any type used by anyone involved in this incident.”