‘I Can’t Breathe’ Protest Spreads Across Pro Sports

CREDIT: (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Prominent professional athletes this weekend continued to join nationwide protests against the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who were killed by police in separate incidents in St. Louis and New York City.

Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush (pictured above) wrote “I Can’t Breathe” — Garner’s last words when he was choked to death by an NYPD officer in July — on a blue t-shirt that he wore on the field during pre-game warm-ups before Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay, and Cleveland Browns defensive back Johnson Bademosi wrote the same message on the back of the shirt he wore during warm-ups for his game against Indianapolis:

Andrew Luck, Johnson Bademosi

CREDIT: (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

“It’s not an us-against-them thing,” Bademosi told the Associated Press after the game. “It’s about us standing in solidarity with those of us who know what’s going on.”

Other athletes also joined in. St. Louis Rams offensive lineman Davin Joseph wrote “I Can’t Breathe” on the cleats he wore during a game against Washington:

According to the AP, Rams wide receiver Kenny Britt wrote the names of Garner, Brown, and Trayvon Martin on his cleats, while tight end Jared Cook wrote “I Can’t Breathe” on his wrist tape. Cook and Britt were among the five Rams players who entered the field with a “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” protest before last week’s game.

The protests have happened in the college ranks too. Before a game last week, Knox College basketball player Ariyana Smith walked onto the court with her arms raised in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” posture before laying on the gym floor in a gesture similar to the “die-ins” that have been used to protest Brown’s death. University of Maryland football player Deon Long, meanwhile, held a sign that asked, “Are we still thugs when you pay to watch us play sports?”

The tribute that brought the most attention over the weekend came from Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose, who wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shooting shirt before his Saturday night game against the Golden State Warriors:

Rose did not talk to the media about the shirt after the game, but he did earn the support of LeBron James, who has in the past joined his teammates in donning hoodies to protest Martin’s death and led a team-wide protest against former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling during last season’s playoffs, after Sterling was heard on recordings making racist comments about black players and fans.

“It’s spectacular. I loved it. I’m looking for one,” James said of Rose’s shirt, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported. James added that “it’s possible” that he will wear one before a future game. James’ Cleveland Cavaliers play in Brooklyn Monday night.

The gestures from athletes also won the support of Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, who is black.

“I grew up in the ’60s, where everybody was socially conscious,” Caldwell said, according to the AP. “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.”