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Raiders' George Floyd tweet is reminder to Mark Davis: Being well-meaning isn't enough

Shalise Manza Young
·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·5 min read
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Dear Mark Davis,

Your heart is in the right place. We can see that, and that is a great start. 

But you have more work to do.

On Tuesday night, the NFL and other leagues were posting statements on their respective social media pages after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three counts in the murder of George Floyd. Some were pretty good for corporations that have had to be dragged onto the right side of history — and included words that sounded awfully familiar to ones Colin Kaepernick has used. (Remember Colin Kaepernick, the guy that was kicked out of the league for bringing attention to police killings just like George Floyd's?)

Other statements, meanwhile were the definition of "meh."

And then there was your Las Vegas Raiders. The team's verified Twitter account posted a slide, in the black and white style synonymous with the organization, which read "I CAN BREATHE 4-20-21."

Pretty much everyone's thumb, the one they use to scroll, froze over their screen as they stared at the post, flabbergasted.

Responses came by the thousands. Fifteen minutes passed. Thirty. Sixty. And the tweet didn't just remain up, it was pinned to the top of the Raiders' account.

To your credit, Mark, you answered the calls and text messages of reporters who wanted to know who green-lit such a tone-deaf post. And whether that's really the case or you're just protecting an employee, you said the tweet was your idea, your responsibility. The tweet is no longer pinned, but you said it wouldn't be taken down and it hasn't been.

Your heart is in the right place with regard to civil rights allyship, Mark Davis. But you have more work to do. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Your heart is in the right place with regard to civil rights allyship, Mark Davis. But you have more work to do. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

You told Tashan Reed of The Athletic that "I can breathe" came from Floyd's brother, Philonise, who told media after the verdict: "Today, we are able to breathe again." 

George Floyd's family feels it can exhale after getting the verdict it deserved, with Chauvin becoming the rare police officer actually held to account for wantonly killing a citizen. And Philonise himself has said he was not offended by the tweet.

But you, Mark, were never in their position, of praying and hoping that the person you loved — who died under the knee of a man so unmoved by his victim's pleas that he casually put his hand in his pocket as the life slowly drained from his body — would get some small measure of justice. And if you wanted to go by what Floyd's brother said, why not simply say "We can breathe"?

You told Reed that "if" you offended Floyd's family, you're "deeply, deeply disappointed." 

This, to be clear, is not an apology.

Reed had to point out to you that New York City police officers wore "I can breathe" t-shirts in 2014 to mock the final words of Eric Garner, another Black man choked to death by agents of the state, which you said you didn't know about. 

"Let me say this right off the bat: I was not aware of that. Absolutely not. I had no idea of that," you told Reed. "That's a situation that I was not aware of. I can see where there could be some negativity towards what I said based on that. But if that's what the cops are wearing then, really, it is a bad statement."

Whether you knew about those t-shirts or not isn't exactly immaterial, but it's not the major point. Or not my major point, anyway.

My point, Mark, is that I need you to read a little more. Educate yourself more. Think things all the way through before you put out statements. 

Again, it seems like your heart is in the right place.

In 2017, after then-President Trump called NFL players who kneeled during the anthem "sons of bitches," you said publicly that while you initially told Raiders players not to kneel, you'd changed your stance, explaining, "I can no longer ask our team to not say something while they are in a Raider uniform. The only thing I can ask them to do is do it with class. Do it with pride."

Last year, in the days after Floyd was killed, you had the team release a statement attributed to you in which you called the death a murder. Based on what we've come to expect from NFL owners, it was welcome. 

Still, in that statement you wrote that "burning your brother's house down is ultimately not the answer."

It undercuts your own point, that Floyd was murdered, when you equate the possible destruction of property to the loss of human life. 

Things can be rebuilt and replaced. People cannot. Derek Chauvin killed a man and still he will be able to see family members if they choose to visit him in prison. Floyd's daughter will never get to hold her dad's hand again.

You're trying, Mark, and relative to some of your fellow NFL team owners, that's significant. I mean, it's a low bar, but I'm trying to be as positive as possible.

Tuesday night's tweet was a failure. You seemed to get a little defensive about it. To be blunt, your feelings don't matter in this situation. I'm sure you're not used to hearing that, but as a coach I used to cover is fond of saying, it is what it is. 

If you really want to be anti-racist, take the criticism and learn from it. Read some of Ibram X. Kendi's writings. Read Isabel Wilkerson's "Caste." See if Angel McCoughtry or Liz Cambage from your new team, the WNBA's Las Vegas Aces, are willing to help. 

We need as many allies as we can get. But meaning well isn't enough. 

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