Blake Wheeler says ‘America is not OK’ amid protests following George Floyd’s death

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Winnipeg Jets forward and Minnesota native Blake Wheeler joined a growing list of athletes speaking out following the death of George Floyd. 

Wheeler took to Twitter Saturday night amid another day of tense protests, which began in Minneapolis following Monday’s death of Floyd after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes.

Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd’s death has also resulted in protests across the United States. with police cars set ablaze and reports of injuries mounting on all sides as the country lurched toward another night of unrest after months of coronavirus lockdowns.

“I’ve wanted to say something for a while, but it’s been really difficult knowing what to say. My hometown is burning. Businesses where I grew up are being boarded up. America is not OK,” Wheeler wrote.

“Growing up outside Minneapolis, I always felt sheltered from racism. That’s because I was,” he continued. “Most people I grew up with looked like me. I never had to be scared when I stopped at a traffic light or saw the police in public. My kids will never know that fear either.

“I’m heartbroken that we still treat people this way. We need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism. I’m sorry it has taken this long, but I’m hopeful that we can change this NOW. George Floyd’s life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered. So did every other life that has been lost by this senseless violence and racism,” Wheeler concluded.

WATCH | Police fire tear gas on protesters:

CBC senior correspondent Susan Ormiston reports from Minneapolis, where police fire tear gas on protesters 5:01

Wheeler was not the only NHL player to speak up about Floyd’s death. San Jose Sharks forwards Evander Kane and Logan Couture also took to Twitter to share their thoughts.

Floyd’s death and the ensuing protests have prompted many sports figures — including athletes, coaches and league officials — to speak out in recent days.

“As an organization and a community, we come from all over the world. We are diverse. We speak different languages. But our shared humanity unites us,” the Toronto Raptors said in a released statement Saturday night.

“When we see racism and violence committed against someone because of the colour of their skin, we should, and do, feel outrage. We cannot accept this. While we grieve for those we have lost, we know grieving is not enough. We must honour their memory by acknowledging these ills exist, confronting them, and coming together to create a better society. It is far past time.

Former Raptors coach Dwane Casey, now with the Detroit Pistons, also released a statement.

“Fifty-four years ago, I was an 8-year-old boy living in rural Kentucky when the schools were desegregated,” Casey said. “I walked into a white school where I was not wanted nor welcomed. At that time, there were no cellphones to record my treatment, no cable news stations with 24/7 coverage, no social media to record the reality of the situation or offer support nor condemnation.

“But I can remember exactly how I felt as an 8-year-old child. I felt helpless. I felt as if I was neither seen, nor heard, nor understood. As I have watched the events unfold in the days following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a city where I coached and once called home, I see how many people continue to feel those same feelings — helpless, frustrated, invisible, angry. I understand the outrage because it seems the list continues to grow: Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd. The injustices continue to mount and nothing seems to be changing.

“Fifty-four years later, my son is now 8 years old and I look at the world he is growing up in and wonder, how much has really changed? How often is he judged on sight? Is he growing up in a world where he is seen, and heard, and understood? Does he feel helpless? Will he be treated like George Floyd or Ahmaud Abrey? What have we really done in the last 54 years to make his 8-year-old world better than mine was? We all have to be and do better.”