On the first weekend of sports action since a Staten Island grand jury declined to bring criminal charges against the officer whose chokehold killed Eric Garner this past summer, several professional athletes decided to use the platforms provided by their sports to speak out against the extrajudicial killings of black men by police officers.
Chicago Bulls point guard Derek Rose wore a T-shirt that read Garner’s infamous last words, "I can’t breathe," during warm-ups against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night.
Derek Rose, Chicago Bulls, "I Can’t Breathe!" pic.twitter.com/zIWpolD2LX
— Urbanradio.com (@Urbanradio) December 8, 2014
The move earned him the ire of at least one sports columnist, who called the all-star player "inarticulate" and questioned whether he understood his actions. But Rose did earn the praise of LeBron James, who called Rose’s action "spectacular" and mentioned that he’s shopping around for a shirt of his own.
On Sunday, Detroit Lions running black Reggie Bush made a similar statement, scrawling "I Can’t Breathe" in black Sharpie across his blue warm-up shirt before a game against the the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
— The Outer Drive (@TheOuterDrive) December 8, 2014
In an interview with ESPN.com last month, Bush, who’s mother was a police officer for 20 years, described his anger about a Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict former police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Mike Brown in August. "Just something seemed flawed about the system and about the way that situation was handled," Bush said. "I don’t know all the facts of what happened during when Michael Brown was killed, but I just know that a young man lost his life. Was shot how many times? Six? Ten times? Ten times. That’s a little excessive."
Lions coach Jim Caldwell supported Bush’s action. "I grew up in the ’60s, where everybody was socially conscious," Caldwell told reporters. "I believe in it. I’d be a hypocrite if I stood up here and told you any differently, because more than likely, some of those protests that Dr. [Martin Luther] King and some of the others that took a part in non-violent protests, is the reason why I’m standing here in front of you today."
Rose and Bush were just two of a handful of pro athletes who made the action. Here’s St. Louis Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt, who was one of several players who made the "hands up, don’t shoot" gesture last week:
— Margaret Farenger (@MFarenger) December 1, 2014
Britt also had several names, including Mike Brown’s and Trayvon Martin’s, written on his cleats during Sunday’s game.
Britt’s teammate, offensive lineman Davin Joseph tweeted this photo of his cleats against Washington, D.C.’s NFL team on Sunday:
R.I.P Eric Garner pic.twitter.com/i84grny7pR
— Davin Joseph (@DavinJoseph75) December 7, 2014
Here’s Cleveland Brown’s cornerback Johnson Bademosi, who told reporters: "It’s not an us-against-them thing. It’s about us standing in solidarity with those of us who know what’s going on."
— Florent Bodin (@Florent_Bodin) December 8, 2014
And here’s San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram:
— Trendolizer (@Trendolizer) December 8, 2014
It’s not yet clear if any of these players will be fined for their on-field actions. Both the NFL and NBA adhere to strict dress codes both before and after games. For what it’s worth, the five Rams players, including Britt, who made the "hands up, don’t shoot" gesture during pre-game introductions last week weren’t fined by the team or the league.