AUSTIN (KXAN) — Olympians are speaking out amid worldwide protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after four Minneapolis police officers tried to arrest him and one kneeled on his neck.
Dozens of athletes have tweeted, including gymnast Simone Biles, who said “we have to do better america (sic).”
Basketball player Breanna Stewart posted images of protests and followed up by saying, “It’s hard to reconcile the pride I feel playing for Team USA with the shame I feel over the systemic racism that has contributed to the privileges I have – and the oppression of Black people in America.”
The Paralympic Games also tweeted its commitment to creating an inclusive world without discrimination where people are united and their rights are respected. “Acts of racism cannot go on,” it tweeted. “Change must happen.”
See more athlete reactions
Track and field athlete Jasmine Todd:
Soccer player Alex Morgan:
Soccer player Weston McKennie:
Gymnast Jordyn Wieber:
Soccer player Rose Lavelle:
Foil fencer Race Imboden:
Why he protested
Long jumper Tyrone Smith, who competes for Bermuda and is married to American pole vaulter Sandi Morris, spoke to KXAN’s Erin Cargile and showed her a sign he made that says “I am not a threat #BlackLivesMatter” that he took out to a protest in Austin over the weekend.
“I’ve had experiences just like so many black people in America around race, and it all comes from a perception of me being a threat — which I might be the nicest person that most people know,” Smith said, talking about times he’s been flagged by police or residents when he’s been jogging, been considered suspicious by store owners, been pulled over multiple times and not issued a ticket.
Smith is training in Austin as he attends the University of Texas. His family was originally from Bermuda but he moved to the U.S. as a child and has dual citizenship.
“You know, I’m 35 and I can recall all these names of all these people who have passed away — Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin — and they’re just ingrained in my brain and I felt like this was a moment that I really wanted to participate in,” Smith said.
The Olympics and protests
The Olympic Games themselves are no stranger to protests. One of the most famous examples was in the 1968 Olympics when black athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos each raised a fist on the podium after medaling in the 200 meter race while the Star Spangled Banner was being played.
According to History.com, their raised black-gloved fists represented their “solidarity and support with black people and oppressed people around the world.” They also stood in “black-socked feet without shoes to bring attention to black poverty, [and wore] beads to protest lynchings.”
The third man on the podium was Australian Peter Norman, who didn’t raise his fist but joined them in wearing a badge for the Olympic Project for Human rights
All faced intense backlash. The Americans were suspended from the U.S. team and the Australian never competed in the Olympics again despite qualifying multiple times for the Australian Olympic team, History.com said.
Dr. John Carlos said you see far more athletes stepping up now in the name of social justice and recently told WDVM’s Marcus Dash, “I sit back and smile with pride and say, ‘They are the fruit of my labor.'”
Dr. John Carlos travels the U.S. talking many different kinds of groups. Recently Nexstar station WDVM caught up with him when he went to a high school to talk to student athletes
He says he hopes the next generation continues to stand up when they see injustice.
“Trying to inspire someone to make them feel confident enough that you can stand for what’s right and you don’t have to stand back and tolerate certain things when you know emotionally, spiritually, it’s affecting you,” Carlos said.