Former NBA player Stephen Jackson has said he will not allow the police to “demean the character” of his childhood friend, George Floyd. Jackson’s words come amid growing outcry from athletes over Floyd’s death in police custody, including teenage tennis star Coco Gauff.
Jackson was speaking at a rally in Minneapolis in remembrance of Floyd, who died in handcuffs on Monday after being pinned to the ground and pleading that he could not breathe. Jackson told ABC News on Tuesday that his friendship with Floyd dated back to their days growing up in Houston, where they “looked out for each other”.
“I’m here because they’re not gonna demean the character of George Floyd, my twin,” Jackson said to onlookers at the Minneapolis City Hall Rotunda on Friday afternoon. “A lot of times, when police do things they know that’s wrong, the first thing they try to do is cover it up, and bring up your background to make it seem like the bullshit that they did was worthy.
“When was murder ever worthy? But if it’s a black man, it’s approved.”
He continued: “You can’t tell me, when that man has his knee on my brother’s neck – taking his life away, with his hand in his pocket – that that smirk on his face didn’t say: ‘I’m protected.’ You can’t tell me that he didn’t feel that it was his duty to murder my brother, and that he knew he was gonna get away with it. You can’t tell me that wasn’t the look on his face.”
Jackson, who played 14 seasons in the NBA and was a starting forward on the San Antonio Spurs’ championship team in 2003, spoke along with actor Jamie Foxx and others at the downtown rally, which was also attended by Minnesota Timberwolves players Karl-Anthony Towns and Josh Okogie.
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was seen on video kneeling on the neck of Floyd, was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter, Hennepin County attorney Mike Freeman said.
“We can’t love forever and the hate is coming out and I’m afraid,” Jackson said at Friday’s rally. “I’m honestly afraid because I know what comes from hate, from us, and I know why y’all are so scared. Because y’all are scared that we’re going to pull a you on you. I know why y’all are scared. Y’all have been doing us wrong for so long, y’all think karma’s going to hit you right back.
“But we’re going to do this shit right and it ain’t gonna stop. I don’t have no more tears honestly. I’ve cried enough. I’ve cried enough. I’m here for one reason. For my brother’s honor.”
A growing number of figures from the sports world have expressed their anger and grief over the death since LeBron James, Lewis Hamilton and Colin Kaepernick first spoke out in the immediate aftermath.
Tennis star Coco Gauff, an emerging 16-year-old sensation in a sport where top players have traditionally avoided speaking out on social issues, posted a TikTok video invoking Floyd’s death, along with other victims of racial violence including Ahmaud Arbery, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin and Breonna Taylor.
In the video, Gauff holds her hands up as a caption appears, reading “am I next?” The video begins with the caption “this is why I am using my voice to fight against racism,” and ends with “I am using my voice. Will you use yours?” Gauff also posted the video on Twitter, but it has since been deleted.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow, one of the few white US sports stars to make a public statement, said that the “black community needs our help” on Twitter.
“They have been unheard for far too long,” said Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner from Louisiana State and No 1 overall pick in last month’s NFL draft. “Open your ears, listen, and speak. This isn’t politics. This is human rights.”
Brian Flores, head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and one of only four active minority coaches in pro football today, made an appeal for “honesty, transparency and empathy” in a statement to ESPN.
“Many people who broadcast their opinions on kneeling 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.
“I lead a group of young men who have the potential to make a real impact in this world. 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.”