The Las Vegas Raiders are facing backlash over a tweet after the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial. The former police officer was convicted of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.
Soon after the verdict was read, the Raiders tweeted the words “I can breathe,” followed by the date. The post immediately faced criticism, with many calling it insensitive. Floyd, 46, was heard saying “I can’t breathe” as Chauvin kneeled on his neck on May 25, 2020, for more than nine minutes, ultimately killing him.
The team’s owner, Mark Davis, took responsibility for the tweet and told CBS affiliate KLAS that he was inspired by Floyd’s brother, Philonise, who said something similar on Tuesday. “Today, we are able to breathe again because justice for George means freedom for all,” Philonise said.
Davis told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he would only issue an apology if thought the Floyd family was offended. “I think justice was served,” Davis said. “It’s rare I make statements about anything and if I thought it offended the (Floyd) family, I would feel very badly and apologize. Other than that, I’m not apologizing. I (honestly) believe after listening to Philonise, this is a day that we can all breathe.”
In a statement Wednesday, Philonise extended his family’s “deepest gratitude” to the Raiders organization for its support of his family and the country’s “pursuit of justice and equality for all.”
“Now, more than ever, we must come together as one and continue on in this fight. For the first time in almost a year, our family has taken a breath. And I know that goes for so many across the nation and globe, as well. Let’s take this breath together in honor of my big brother who couldn’t. Let’s do it for George,” the statement said.
The phrase “I can’t breathe” was also used as a rallying cry at protests following Eric Garner’s death from a chokehold administered by a New York City police officer in 2014. “I can breathe” was used as a slogan for pro-police demonstrations at the time.
In response to the Raiders’ tweet, with LeBron James, former NBA player Jason Collins and others voicing their displeasure on Tuesday.
The NFL faced similar backlash on Tuesday after issuing a statement many considered tone-deaf because of the league’s treatment of players who have protested against police violence.
Colin Kaepernick, who first led kneeling protests during the national anthem in 2016 to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice, remains unsigned despite a record that included a Super Bowl appearance with the San Francisco 49ers. In a statement last year, Kaepernick called out the NFL for “blackballing” safety Eric Reid, who joined Kaepernick in protesting police violence but has yet to be signed by any team.