As the world protests police brutality from the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis police custody, athletes in all sports have joined the fight.
Former Warriors forward Stephen Jackson called Floyd his "twin" and became extremely emotional on social media upon learning of his death and held a press conference asking America to finally get real about race. Steve Kerr, Steph Curry and many others have voiced their thoughts and anger as well. On Sunday morning, 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman expressed his thoughts on Twitter.
When will the response be justice? Racism has been around forever and too many excuses have been made for it. If you are sitting by watching it and judging the reaction you are part of the problem with what is going on because you allow yourself to overlook the cause.— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) May 31, 2020
Unarmed and Black is not a crime and should not be treated as such. I will not argue or engage in discussion with individuals who cannot understand that basic premise. Basic fairness and justice is all that has been asked for and it has not be given— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) May 31, 2020
It’s curious the way I’m treated in public when I have a mask on and when I don’t. When I wear a mask I feel the tension that I have felt since i was a child. I can feel the looks I get of ppl who assume I’m a threat. But when the mask comes off and suddenly I’m not a threat— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) May 31, 2020
My profession nor my education change the fact that I’m a black man in America and to that end I will continue to fight for equality for the ppl that are treated unjust in the country. And if that offends you or makes you uncomfortable then maybe we are starting to make progress— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) May 31, 2020
As he saw his tweets, Sports Illustrated's Albert Breer reached out to Sherman. Unprompted, Sherman spoke on the importance of white quarterbacks like Carson Wentz of the Philadelphia Eagles, Joe Burrow of the Cincinnati Bengals and Clemson star Trevor Lawrence all speaking up following Floyd, an African American man, dying after an officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he pleaded that he couldn't breathe.
“I’m impressed with the white QBs speaking up because those are voices that carry different weight than the black voices for some people,” Sherman said to Breer. “Which means the people who refuse to listen to a black athlete’s perspective will hear the same thing said from a white athlete, but receive the message much differently. So it’s awesome that more people are speaking out, because in sports, you really have a love and appreciation for your fellow man, regardless of race.
“And I think that’s what makes sports and teams so special, because a lot of the stereotypes are torn down. You really get to know one another, not judge based off nonsense.”
Breer initially asked Sherman if he believes it's a responsibility of himself or other athletes to speak up right now. The veteran cornerbacks feels it's more a case-by-case basis and nobody should be forced to, though it's clear he sees the impact on doing so.
“It’s always based on the individual,” Sherman said. “Because not everyone has something to say and not everyone who’s an athlete should be forced to. There are many successful people in this world with platforms, but not everyone should speak.”
In a time like this, Sherman's words on white QBs speaking up is extremely important. Kerr said Friday that Floyd's death led to a lot of soul-searching for himself and that white people as a whole haven't done enough. He's right, as is Sherman.
This is a time for white athletes, and white people in general, to listen and to speak up. We (as in white people) can't pretend we know what people of color go through every single day. We can't act like we do and can't tell minorities how they should feel or react right now. Instead, as Sherman highlighted, we must listen and be a voice for the unheard.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]