With great volume, athletes have lent their voices to an international chorus denouncing racism and police brutality in America following the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died May 25 after white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt with his a knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.
Their participation in the outcry following Floyd’s killing makes sense on several levels, L.A. Sparks star and basketball TV analyst Chiney Ogwumike said Monday on ESPN’s “Get Up!”
“At the root of it all, it’s in our DNA: We are team players; we are wired to care for the last player on the bench as much as we care about ourselves,” said Ogwumike, noting that Jaylen Brown and Karl-Anthony Towns were among the NBA players who participated in protests sparked by Floyd’s death.
“As athletes, when we play, we operate in a merit-based world where you are judged by your performance not your pigmentation,” Ogwumike said. “But, you see, when we leave the arena, it’s not always the same. No matter how much success you have, that success does not guarantee you protection from a society that can, if it so chooses, turn on you based on the color of your skin.
“I’ve been really proud to see them stand up and speak up because – we all know this – we’re not comfortable staying on the sidelines … when it’s crunch time,” she added.
my thoughts on why athletes continue to use their platform for social change pic.twitter.com/1nFSXBGc88
— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) June 1, 2020
And L.A.-based athletes’ exertion in the spirit of justice has, in the past week, been prolific and often profound.
Many members of the Lakers shared the same message on social media: “If YOU ain’t wit US, WE ain’t with Y’ALL,” and other athletes expounded.
Dodgers star Mookie Betts shared feelings he’d been processing on Instagram: “Over the last few days I have sat in disbelief yet again, how a black man can be killed because of the color of his skin. As I continue to process the recent events, I am reminded that our fight is not over. We must not get comfortable when the protesting is over, but remain dedicated to our mission; EQUALITY FOR ALL!
He continued: “I AM MORE THAN AN ATHLETE… I AM A BLACK MAN, A FATHER, A SON, A BROTHER, & A FRIEND.”
Cooper Kupp, a Rams wide receiver, posted a Twitter thread that he said was tough to write because he struggled to find words adequate for the weight of “the injustice and despair that our brothers and sisters experience and live in each and every day.”
“But,” Kupp wrote, “the fact that I can’t speak seems deserving, because talking has been done for so long without a willingness by so many to listen, understand, reflect, and move to bring change both inward and outward.
“The pit in my stomach reminds me that it has been known the injustice and brokenness that exists, and still I have not joined along in the screams for change (while) at the same time working, living, walking alongside my friends who live each day in a system and society that has failed them repeatedly. My family will not stand for it and we will move. Stillness breeds stagnancy. And we will not be still any longer.”
Richard Sherman, the San Francisco 49ers cornerback and Compton native, posted a series of tweets describing some of the racism he’s encountered, including recently, when he’s donned a face covering during the coronavirus pandemic.
“When I wear a mask I feel the tension that I have felt since I was a child,” Sherman wrote. “I can feel the looks I get of (people) who assume I’m a threat. But when the mask comes off and suddenly I’m not a threat.
“My profession nor my education change the fact that I’m a black man in America,” added Sherman, a former Stanford star and Super Bowl champion. “And to that end I will continue to fight for equality for the (people) that are treated unjust in the country.”
On Instagram, Clippers forward Paul George posted footage of brutality that looked to be perpetuated by law enforcement during the previous week of nationwide unrest, which has included looting and violence in Southern California. But George paired the 2-minute, 11-second video with a caption supporting “good cops” and everyone willing to fight for change.
“I have family members in law enforcement so I know there are some good cops,” George wrote. “That being said I won’t say (screw) the police but what I will say is (screw) the system! We appreciate ALL that are standing with us! I’ve experienced racism more than once and as a black man raising two daughters I would hate for them to have to experience it as well. I love you all but we have to do better. Now that we have the world’s attention let’s take the steps forward to bring change!”
Athletes of just about every discipline weighed in, from volleyball to skateboarding.
April Ross, a two-time Olympic beach volleyball medalist, posted a series of images and links on Instagram encouraging her fans to engage in an effort to promote racial equality: “It’s time to read, pay attention, give space to those in the black community talking about their experiences and telling their stories,” she wrote in a post that also read, in part: “We have to lean in and really listen. Without ego or excuses.”
Theotis Beasley, a professional skateboarder from Inglewood, was succinct and incisive with his message on Instagram: “Black lives matter. Not just when someone is murdered. Not just when it looks good for your social media page. Not just when it’s a trend. Not just when it’s a hashtag. Black lives matter every (expletive) second of every day.”
And Vanessa Bryant, the widow of Kobe Bryant, shared a 2014 photograph on Instagram of the beloved Lakers star wearing a T-shirt in pregame warmups that read, “I can’t breathe.” He was among the NBA players to wear such a shirt referencing Eric Garner’s final words before he died after a police officer put him in a chokehold.
“My husband wore this shirt years ago and yet here we are again,” Vanessa Bryant wrote. “Life is so fragile. Life is so unpredictable. Life is too short. Let’s share and embrace the beautiful qualities and similarities we all share as people. Drive out hate. Teach respect and love for all at home and school. Spread LOVE. Fight for change- register to VOTE. Do not use innocent lives lost as an excuse to loot. BE AN EXAMPLE OF THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE. #BLACKLIVESMATTER.”
View this post on Instagram
Over the last few days I have sat in disbelief yet again, how a black man can be killed because of the color of his skin. As I continue to process the recent events, I am reminded that our fight is not over. We must not get comfortable when the protesting is over, but remain dedicated to our mission; EQUALITY FOR ALL! I AM MORE THAN AN ATHLETE… I AM A BLACK MAN, A FATHER, A SON, A BROTHER, & A FRIEND. #EnoughIsEnough #GodProtectUs #PleaseStopKillingUs
A post shared by Mookie Betts (@mookiebetts) on
Battled for days to find the words and I don’t know if I ever will find them. Not to appropriately give weight to the injustice and despair that our brothers and sisters experience and live in each and every day.
— Cooper Kupp (@CooperKupp) May 31, 2020
Unarmed and Black is not a crime and should not be treated as such. I will not argue or engage in discussion with individuals who cannot understand that basic premise. Basic fairness and justice is all that has been asked for and it has not be given
— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) May 31, 2020
View this post on Instagram
I’m not well versed in racial injustice, but I know we can do better than this. What has happened to George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor and countless others is inexcusable. We need change. It’s time to read, pay attention, give space to those in the black community talking about their experiences and telling their stories. We have to lean in and really listen. Without ego or excuses. Then we have to act. In our circles, by donating, by speaking up, holding people accountable, and by physically joining the cause for equality. My heart goes out to all of their families, and the entire black community. I will do what I can do to encourage change around me and to be an ally. And I will continue to carry this with me and do more. Until we all feel equal in this country. We are too great to settle for anything less. ⠀⠀ If you are looking for ways to help I’ve included some orgs that are doing impactful work if you are able to donate. I also included some books that I’ve seen recommended if, like me, you’re committed to learning more. ⠀⠀ Also linking the #JusticeforGeorgeFloyd petition in my stories. First slide by @nikkolas_smith Second slide @chuchuboogie Third by @cleowade Fourth from @gq Fifth from @emmaroberts
A post shared by April Ross (@aprilrossbeach) on