As the United States struggled to deal with the spread of COVID-19, on May 25 George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Videos spread of Floyd, pinned to the ground by an officer with his knee on Floyd’s neck, pleading for help and stating that he couldn’t breathe. The pleading and calls for his mother ended after several minutes, but that’s not where the video stops, as the officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes after he had stopped moving and no longer showed signs of life. Three more officers stood around, doing nothing to offer aid.
As the videos circled social media platform, anger understandably rose around the world. Following shortly after the murder of Ahmaud Arbery and the grisly death of Breonna Taylor, chafing at the handling of the country’s handling of the response to a pandemic, and struggling with isolation and loss of work, cities around the United States saw their streets fill as people voiced their justified anger at their nation’s indifference to police violence and at the systemic devaluing of Black lives and the lives of People of Color.
Whether marching in the streets with like-minded individuals, sharing support via social media, giving to bail-fund organizations or similar groups, or any combination of those activities, nearly everyone’s attention was turned to the protests. Professional athletes, being human beings, are no exception, and many players — both current and past — from OL Reign and the Seattle Sounders organization took to social media to share their thoughts.
Stefan Frei, not for the first time, shared his thoughts on the injustices being protested on Twitter.
The injustice in America brought so vividly into focus yet again.— Stefan Frei (@Stefan24Frei) May 30, 2020
This isn't about a difference of opinion on a trivial matter.
This is about basic human rights!
We are all one people that deserve to be respected and treated equally.
Bethany Balcer, reigning NWSL Rookie of the Year, shared her support for the protests, while Jess Fishlock expressed her outrage with the behavior of the police — both in terms of their response to the protests, and the murder of George Floyd.
i hopped on twitter and facebook to see my hometown rioting- many people are freaking out about it and disappointed. however i would be more worried if nothing was happening. people are using their voices and finally giving a damn and i’m here for it— Bethany Balcer (@bethanybalcer) May 31, 2020
I cannot deal with the police in this country.— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) May 31, 2020
The system HAS to change. From top to bottom.
Every Single official - every SINGLE person who tried to cover up the murder ...— Jessica Fishlock MBE (@JessFishlock) June 1, 2020
Blaming it on George Floyd ‘ underlying health ‘ issues contributing to his death ...
They all need to be found, fired & charged with perverting the course of justice.
MY GOD. https://t.co/9tE6XuBCMA
Darian Jenkins, in a series of posts, covered her support for the protests, the need for change, and her desire and willingness to help. She also shared an image containing a list of names of those who had been killed by police.
(1/3)I’m heartbroken. This can’t just be another hashtag, it can’t be another repost. It MUST be about who you are offline, the active learning and ACTIONS you take to help make change. Donate, protest, VOTE. Our actions need to make space for justice for the black community...— Darian Jenkins (@darian_jenks) June 1, 2020
OL Reign issued a statement on Monday morning, indicating that they would be giving to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and encouraging fans to support that organization and the Tacoma Urban League.
Russell Wilson, a minority owner of the Seattle Sounders, shared his own message. In his message Wilson details some of his experience as a Black man in America, as well as his experience as a step-father to two Black children, and the experiences of his parents.
While some leagues and organizations shared short messages varying from vague support for the protests to suggestions that racism is bad, USL shared an essay penned by Charlotte Independence player Hugh Roberts. It’s beautiful and powerful, and you should take the time to read it.
Speak up.— USL Championship (@USLChampionship) June 1, 2020
Say it louder.
Black. Lives. Matter.
While some players shared their own messages of varying lengths, others used their platform to re-share images or messages from others. On her Instagram page, Jodie Taylor shared a couple of popular images.
View this post on Instagram
I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand with you ✊ ✊ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ I’ve been so ignorant and naive of my privilege and I’m so sorry. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It is time to educate ourselves surrounding white privilege and systemic racism and stand up to this.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It is uncomfortable to admit that our privilege has perpetuated racism, but it is necessary to recognise this and to educate ourselves and play our part in dismantling our systems that are built on racism.
Megan Rapinoe shared a post from re-inc, the lifestyle brand that she founded with fellow USWNT players Tobin Heath, Meghan Klingenberg and Christen Press. The post details the group’s support and their promise to give $10,000 to the Black Lives Matter fund, as well as providing links and resources for those looking to educate themselves or contribute either in person or financially to support protests and activist work.
A number of players have shared messages released by Adidas and Nike, depending on which brand they represent.
Cristian Roldan added this after protesters were tear-gassed in order to allow Donald Trump an obstructed photo opportunity.
Why use military force when you can just serve justice? People are pleading justice for George Floyd by charging the other police officers and all to the fullest degree. Continuing to ignore these pleas shows why the system is so broken. #BlackLiveMattters #NoJusticeNoPeace— Cristian Roldan⚽ (@CristianRoldan) June 2, 2020
In this moment of rebellion and upheaval, it’s worth remembering that the players that we support are people living in the same society as we are. Their experience may be different, but they hurt and grieve and feel rage right alongside us. For some it is comforting, reassuring, or validating to see their values echoed by the athletes that they support and cheer on week after week, but at the very least it can be heartening to see people speak up for what they believe in.