NBA icon Michael Jordan decried “ingrained racism” in America Sunday as the sports world’s reaction to the death of unarmed black man George Floyd leapt leagues and continents.

“I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry,” Jordan said in a statement Sunday, as protests of Floyd’s death on 25 May spawned violence and looting. “I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country.

“We have had enough,” said Jordan, who was famously reluctant to comment on social issues during his playing career.

Floyd died on 25 May after a white policeman in Minneapolis had held his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck for several minutes.

“We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability,” Jordan said.

Jordan joined a chorus of voices from the NBA, NFL and other US sports demanding change for black Americans, but the demands weren’t limited to the United States.

French footballer Marcus Thuram and England international Jadon Sancho called for justice for Floyd after scoring in Germany’s Bundesliga.

Thuram took a knee after scoring for Borussia Moenchengladbach in a match against Union Berlin, while Sancho marked one of his three goals for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn by lifting his jersey to reveal a T-shirt bearing the words “Justice for George Floyd.”

Thuram’s gesture echoed the protest of US racism spearheaded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the national anthem at games in 2016 sparked outrage.

The gesture has now been heartbreakingly compared to the death of Floyd, who pleaded that he couldn’t breathe as Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin kept his knee on his neck.

“Do you understand NOW!!??!!??” NBA superstar LeBron James tweeted above the contrasting images.

At half-time, his club tweeted a photo with the caption: “No explanation needed.”

With US pro sports on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, American athletes had no chance to demonstrate on the field of play.

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris were among a number of NBA players who took part in demonstrations over the weekend.

Brown drove 15 hours to lead a peaceful protest march in Atlanta, Georgia.

“First and foremost, I’m a black man and I’m a member of this community,” the Georgia native said.

‘Too many tragedies’

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, himself the son of a policeman, said that as violence escalated it was imperative to keep Floyd’s death at the forefront.

“The response we are seeing across the nation, to the murder of George Floyd, is decades in the making,” Rivers said in a statement. “Too often, people rush to judge the response, instead of the actions that prompted it.

“We have allowed too many tragedies to pass in vain. This isn’t an African-American issue. This is a human issue,” Rivers said.

“I can’t and still can’t find the words to say or express how sad I feel,” 23-time Grand Slam tennis champion Serena Williams said in an Instagram post that featured a video of a young African-American girl overcome by emotion as she addressed a public meeting, finally able to force out the words: “We are black people, and we shouldn’t have to feel like this.”

Teenage tennis phenom Coco Gauff, who is black, had a simple question on her Instagram post: “Am I next?”

Two-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, reminded her social media followers: “Just because it isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it isn’t happening at all.”

That’s something more and more white athletes were taking on board. NFL top draft pick Joe Burrow tweeting this week: “The black community needs our help …. This isn’t politics, this is human rights.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the violent protests “reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.

“As current events dramatically underscore, there remains much more to do as a country and as a league.”

With Kaepernick still unable to find a job in the NFL, not everyone was convinced by Goodell or by San Francisco 49ers chief executive Jed York, who pledged $1 million to combat systemic racial discrimination.

Former 49er Eric Reid, who knelt alongside Kaepernick tweeted: “Nobody wants your money Jed. We want justice.”

Source: AFP