Many major cities burned through the night sparked by the death of George Floyd and continued nationwide police brutality. The sports world, not just LeBron James, began to speak out after seeing the unrest occupying the country.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow spoke out Friday, saying the “black community needs our help.” Burrow officially identifying himself as a potential ally is a remarkable way to enter the NFL.
“They have been unheard for far too long,” Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall draft pick, said Friday on Twitter. “Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”
Burrow took a hit with some of his followers who did not want to hear social justice from the rookie. Its a stark reminder of the, “shut up and dribble” mentality athletes like LeBron James have been fighting against.
LA Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer reinforced the calls for allies to step forward late Friday night on Twitter. Ballmer purchased the franchise after former owner Donald Sterling was discovered to hold racist views.
“We must hold one another accountable. We (non-black people) must get to work,” Ballmer wrote. “We must educate ourselves on the history of oppression and discrimination and how it continues today so we can be better allies and advocate for a better future. We can and must do better.”
On Friday afternoon, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer that killed George Floyd was arrested. He was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for kneeling on Floyd’s neck with his knee.
More Voices Weigh-In
Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores issued a statement Friday. As one of four minority coaches in the 32-team NFL, Flores is on the front lines of the diversity in sports fight.
“Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling [during the national anthem] or on the hiring of minorities don’t seem to have an opinion on the recent murders of these young black men and women,” Flores said.
“I think many of them quietly say that watching George Floyd plead for help is one of the more horrible things they have seen, but it’s said amongst themselves where no one can hear. Broadcasting that opinion clearly is not important enough.”
The kneeling protest of the National Anthem by former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick was widely panned in the sports industry. From color commentators to some athletes, many thought Kaepernick was a distraction.
However, there has been a renewed interest in the aftermath of the Floyd killing. The symbolism of the kneel and its cryptic usage by officer in Floyd’s killing is too blaring not to discuss.
“I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world,” said Flores. “My message to them and anyone else who wants to listen is that honesty, transparency and empathy go a long way in bringing people together and making change.
“I hope that the tragedies of the last few weeks will open our hearts and minds to a better way of communicating and hopefully create that change.”
The NFL Player Making Social Justice Waves
Vocal social justice advocate and New Orleans Saints safety, Malcolm Jenkins called for white athletes to join the discussion around race and policing on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
“This is an American issue. And more importantly, this is a white issue that I think is perpetuated on black people. Racism in our country has been a one-way street,” Jenkins said. “And so when we talk about these issues, it has to be everybody involved; it can’t just be black people who are fighting against the police. This is an American issue that everybody should take offense.”
Jenkins challenged white athletes who have spoken out “to use their privilege and their voices to the fullest extent.”
“They, more than anybody else, have the ear of the majority of this country — whereas black athletes, we are influencers, we have a great voice, especially in the black community; but to change these issues, it comes as the entire society has to get involved,” he said.
Jenkins has always recognized the uniqueness of his platform and said athletes need to convene people and bring issues and voices to the forefront.
“The world will never grow until we are comfortable having the uncomfortable talks and taking action upon them,” Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal said.