George Floyd’s brother defends Las Vegas Raiders ‘I Can Breathe’ tweet: 'Let's take this breath together'
Philonise Floyd, George Floyd’s brother, released a statement thanking the Las Vegas Raiders for their support after the football team received backlash for tweeting, "I Can Breathe" following former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict.
Thousands commented on the tweet, saying it was offensive, and asked the team to take it down. Floyd told officers "I can’t breathe" more than 20 times before he was killed when Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck last May.
Philonise Floyd expressed quite the opposite reaction compared to those on social media and thanked the Raiders for their leadership and encouraged the community to "come together as one and continue to fight."
"On behalf of our family, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Las Vegas Raiders organization and its leadership for their support of our family and for our nation’s ongoing 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 read.
FILE - George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd raises a fist speaks at a press conference at the Minneapolis Convention Center on March 12, 2021 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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The tweet, sent by the team’s official account on Tuesday, was of a photo that reads "I CAN BREATHE 4-20-21."
Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter on Tuesday for causing Floyd’s death.
Raiders owner Mark Davis said he was driving when the verdict was announced and heard Floyd’s brother, Philonise, make the statement that "we can all breathe again" and decided to make that message the team’s response.
"I thought that said a lot," Davis said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. "It said a lot about everything. I thought it was something where we could all breathe again. Justice was served. We still have a lot of work to do on social justice and police brutality. But today, justice was served."
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The tweet was widely condemned in replies on Twitter but remained pinned to the top of the team’s Twitter account more than two hours after being posted.
"It was taken negatively by 99% of the people," Davis said. "That happens. That’s part of social media."
Davis said he won’t delete the tweet because it is already out there but is sorry if it offended anyone in Floyd’s family.
He said he also didn’t know that the phrase "I can breathe" was used by supporters of police in New York after the death of Eric Garner in 2014 and that he wouldn’t have used that phrase if he knew the history.
"It’s a tough situation," he said. "I feel bad it was taken in a way it wasn’t meant to be done. That can only be my fault for not explaining it."
Chauvin’s guilty verdict sent shockwaves of emotion throughout the country and even the world, drawing reactions from political public figures such as former President Barack Obama to the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
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"While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest. ... And as we continue the fight, we can draw strength from the millions of people — especially young people — who have marched and protested and spoken up over the last year, shining a light on inequity and calling for change. Justice is closer today not simply because of this verdict, but because of their work," Obama tweeted on Tuesday.
But despite the relief, a majority of which people expressed on social media, leaders cautioned that there was still work to be done.
President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris gave remarks following the guilty verdict and stressed that while the outcome of this trial is a "giant step forward," "it’s not enough."
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"It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. It is a problem for every American," Harris said. "It is holding our nation back from reaching our full potential."
"A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice," she added.
Biden and Harris called on Congress to act swiftly to address policing reform, including calling for the Senate’s approval of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Beyond that, the president said the entire country must confront hatred to "change hearts and minds as well as laws and policies."
"‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words," Biden said. "We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.