After widespread demonstrations took place across America over the weekend to protest racial injustice and particularly police brutality, Missouri head coaches and athletes are speaking out.
The protests spread after a video surfaced showing a white Minneapolis police officer killing George Floyd, a black man, while Floyd was in custody after being suspected of using counterfeit money at a deli late last month.
“It has to stop,” Missouri head men’s basketball coach Cuonzo Martin said Sunday morning in a statement on social media. “The violence toward people of color, the hate, the racism, the systemic oppression. It has to stop.”
Martin continued: “Our voices matter. Our LIVES matter. For too long, we’ve seen it time and time again — from Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s marches, to the (Los Angeles) riots, and our fight today — it’s gone on far too long and it cannot keep happening.”
A peaceful protest occurred Friday afternoon in downtown Columbia with more than 600 people in attendance. Another local protest happened late Sunday evening into early Monday morning.
Across the nation, some protests evolved into violence and looting.
Former Missouri tight end Albert Okwuegbunam took to Twitter on Saturday to speak about the nationwide protests, responding to a tweet stating that college football coaches are in a “weird spot” as athletes use their voice on the issue.
“Why is it deemed controversial to speak out about what happened to George Floyd and many other unarmed black individuals on and off camera?” Okwuegbunam said. “Where is the controversy in promoting change and equality for black people?”
Okwuegbunam’s tweet ended with #BLM, standing for Black Lives Matter.
Floyd’s death is nearly six years after Michael Brown Jr. was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, which ignited similar national unrest.
Since Brown’s death, other examples of African Americans being killed in police custody include Freddie Gray, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling.
The more recent deaths of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor have renewed conversations about how racism affects the lives of African Americans and other minorities.
More protests across America have been planned for this week.
“In light of the recent tragedy in Minnesota as well as others across the country, and the growing unrest due to ongoing racially motivated injustices, I wanted to echo (MU) President (Mun) Choi’s sentiments and reinforce Mizzou athletics’ zero tolerance for acts of discrimination and violence,” Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk said. “I am deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd, and mourn for his family and the exhausting impact his death has had on the African American community.”
Sterk continued: “I challenge all of us to stand up for what is right and end the hate in our nation. Each one of us have the personal responsibility to treat everyone fairly and with great care. Now more than ever, I want to encourage our Mizzou family to bind together and exemplify our stated values of respect, integrity, gratitude, humility and together. ... Together, we will make a difference in the fight to end prejudice, racism and injustice.”
Many other Missouri head coaches, such as football coach Eliah Drinkwitz, volleyball coach Joshua Taylor and women’s basketball coach Robin Pingeton, also posted statements in the aftermath of Floyd’s killing, condemning racial injustice.
Missouri wide receiver CJ Boone posted a picture of quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem while a member of the San Francisco 49ers, another peaceful protest against racial injustice and police brutality, with the tagline “How you gone catch me everytime.”
“I am a husband, a parent and a leader of inspiring young black men,” Martin said on social media. “We shouldn't have to live in fear — enough is enough. While I’m on this earth, my voice won’t be silent until the injustice stops.”
Martin concluded: “It goes beyond a post on social media. It’s time to join together in our pain, to mourn, to stand united against oppression and ACT to create change. We must live and lead with compassion for one another. Now, more than ever before, it’s important to love each other, to listen to each other and grow together.
“All a man ever wants to do is be respected. We must do better. It has to stop.”