Community leaders, activists and friends of George Floyd gathered Friday afternoon, May 29, at Minneapolis City Hall to pay tribute and demand justice after Floyd died in police custody earlier this week in Minneapolis.
Among them was Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns wearing a “Black Lives Matter,” hat as he showed his support. Towns is one of many athletes in the Twin Cities who has been visible in the days after Floyd’s death. Many athletes, coaches and teams have spoken up as riots and protests have engulfed the Twin Cities in the days following Floyd’s death on Monday.
Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin — who has since been fired and arrested — knelt on his neck while Floyd repeatedly told him that he could not breathe. Video of the encounter has circulated widely on both the news and social media and has sparked anger and sadness around the country.
Towns’ teammate Josh Okogie, who has been vocal on his social media platforms in recent days, also reportedly was in attendance at Friday’s press conference.
“I’m a big believer in being proactive, not reactive. It’s cool to have justice for people after they die, and it’s cool to punish cops accordingly. But instead of reacting to each situation, we need to look the real problem in the eye and stop any further unnecessary killings,” Okogie tweeted this week. “Regardless of your race, background, and your upbringing … no human’s life is more precious than the next. These killings should not be normalized.”
The Timberwolves and Lynx released a statement on Thursday, sharing their “deepest sympathy” with Floyd’s family and vowing to “work tirelessly to influence change, encourage healing, and promote thoughtful action as we move forward.”
Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders posted a transcript of some of Floyd’s last words with an impassioned plea on Instagram for people to look within themselves to “confront explicit or implicit biases.”
“We must change how we view this horrific death, change the way we interact with people and change the way we let comments slide,” Saunders wrote on Instagram. “Enough is enough. Silence and complacency only add fuel to the fire. We must be better. George Floyd deserved better.”
Gophers wide receiver Rashod Bateman also posted a powerful tribute on Twitter along with a black-and-white photo of himself, head buried in his hand.
“My name is Rashod Bateman. I am an African Male from South Georgia. I never thought in a million years I would be scared to walk outside,” the caption read. “I pray that we all wake up and start loving each other the correct way and stop taking each other (sic) lives. No matter the color, we are all one.”
Multiple Minnesota United players have spoken up on social media, too, with defender Michael Boxall tweeting Tuesday that “Unemployment doesn’t seem like a fitting punishment for murder” in a quote-tweet of Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announcing that all four officers involved in Floyd’s death had been terminated. Only Chauvin has since been taken into custody. Midfielder Marlon Hairston tweeted it was “hard to sleep” through everything that had been going on while wishing safety for everyone. Teammate Ike Opara also sent out a tweet this week, telling people they could choose to be blind about injustices, broken systems and privileges or choose to educate themselves and overcome biases.
And Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins also chimed in on social media, posting an Instagram with a photo of him hand in hand with his teammates.
“My heart breaks for our city, but especially for my African American brothers and sisters, who I know feel this on a level I can’t possibly understand. Please know I am with you. I hurt with and for you. WE must do better. WE must be better. May God pour out His mercy and grace such that we are better,” Cousins wrote.
The Vikings, in a statement, said the organization was “deeply saddened by the loss of life” that occurred Monday near U.S. Bank Stadium, and the Wild’s statement struck a similar tone, expressing sadness and the importance of everybody in the community feeling safe and protected, as did the Twins, who vowed to keep working with partners in the community to “move forward with courage, free of hate and thoughtful in our path, to create the change we want to see on the world — one, all-inclusive Twins Territory, where everyone is protected, safe and welcome.”
“George Floyd should be breathing right now,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli tweeted earlier in the week. “We have a lot of progress to make. A lot. Remember his name. Remember what happened.”