'Justice served' - Sports world reacts after guilty verdict in US murder case that sparked protests, activism

By Marc Lancaster 21 April 2021 10
'Justice served' - Sports world reacts after guilty verdict in US murder case that sparked protests, activism

Athletes expressed relief and vowed to continue the fight for reforms after a jury in Minnesota found a former police officer guilty in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. 

Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, nearly 11 months after he knelt on Floyd's neck and back for more than nine minutes during an arrest. 

Floyd's death aged 46 sparked outrage across the United States, with athletes across multiple sports among those who called for justice. 

Tuesday's verdict in Minneapolis provided a measure of progress and sports figures, teams and leagues spoke out after the ruling. 

Basketball star LeBron James' reaction was among the most succinct as he tweeted simply: "ACCOUNTABILITY".

Boxing legend Mike Tyson tweeted: "Guilty. Justice served."

While similiar expressions of relief were common, most continued to lament the crime that sparked the case. 

"George Floyd lost his life, as many others have, unjustly. We can't forget that - that people are losing their lives," Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters.

"On the other hand, it is a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future in that perhaps all the social justice movements - the NBA, the WNBA, the community at large - are really making an impact.

"I just hope that this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm."

New Orleans Pelicans head coach Stan Van Gundy sounded a similar note before playing the Nets.

"Justice was done," Van Gundy said. "But it’s hard to celebrate. It’s hard to celebrate because it doesn’t bring back George Floyd. We had somebody needlessly killed."

WTA star Naomi Osaka acknowledged that dichotomy, writing: "I was going to make a celebratory tweet but then I was hit with sadness because we are celebrating something that is clear as day. The fact that so many injustices occurred to make us hold our breath toward this outcome is really telling."

Official reactions from major sports leagues sounded a similar tone.

An NFL statement read in part: "Today's outcome in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis does not undo the loss of life. Mr. George Floyd should be here with us today.

"Our hearts remain with the Floyd family, and we understand the pain, anger an frustration does not go away even when justice is delivered. 

"Importantly, even as we identify reasons for hope, we must continue to help move our society toward a more equal and just tomorrow." 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and NBA players' union executive director Michele Roberts released a joint statement. It read: "George Floyd's murder was a flash point for how we look at race and justice in our country, and we are pleased that justice appears to have been served. 

"But we also recognize that there is much work to be done and the National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, together with our newly formed Social Justice Coalition, will redouble our efforts to advocate for meaningful change in the areas of criminal justice and policing."

The road ahead also resonated with the athletes, who played a significant role in drawing attention to the case in the days and weeks after Floyd's death. 

Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young tweeted: "WAY MORE WORK TO DO." 

Shaquil Barrett of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added: "It's just the beginning. May you rest in peace #GeorgeFloyd".

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Marc Lancaster

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