Taking a page from the Chicago Bulls’ Derrick Rose, Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush decided to wear a warm-up shirt with the phrase “I can’t breathe” scrawled over the front as a way to protest the death of Eric Garner and challenge police violence nationwide.
Just a day before, Rose was seen rocking a similar shirt with the phrase emblazoned on the front — words that were Garner’s last before he was choked to death by a New York City police officer in July. Just last week, a Staten Island grand jury elected not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death.
Both actions come a week after a handful of St. Louis Rams players were ordered to apologize for coming out on the field with their hands in the air as a tribute to Michael Brown Jr., the unarmed black teenager killed by a white officer in Ferguson, Mo. The team, however, did not give in to the requests of the St. Louis Police Officers Association.
The players involved in last week’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” action continued their activism Sunday — Rams offensive lineman Davin Joseph wrote Garner’s last words on his cleats ahead of the game against the Washington Washington Football Team. He tweeted a photograph of his own personal protest:
R.I.P Eric Garner pic.twitter.com/i84grny7pR
— Davin Joseph (@DavinJoseph75) December 7, 2014
Others donned Garner’s name on the field.
Tight end Jared Cook had it written on his wrist tape. Receiver Kenny Britt had several names — including Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin — written on his blue and gold cleats. The names were of black men or teens whose deaths led to protests.
“I feel like we should support what we feel is right,” said Joseph, who intended to wear the cleats during the game but had to change because of the condition of the slick turf at the Washington Football Team's stadium. “We should always have an opinion of sticking up for people who don’t have a voice.”
Cleveland Browns cornerback Johnson Bademosi also wore an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt during warm-ups on Sunday.
And the protests don’t seem to be coming to an end, a reality an NFL executive is aware of, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell supported Bush’s action.
“I grew up in the ’60s, where everybody was socially conscious,” Caldwell said. “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.”
We applaud the players who are using their platform to raise awareness about injustices nationwide. We’ll keep you updated on the latest social justice actions from the field.