The death of George Floyd, a 46-year old Black man who died under a knee of a Minneapolis police officer, ignited reaction around the world, including from professional athletes on social media.
High school athletes in Section V were among those reading, listening and watching. Here are thoughts from eight Black high school-aged athletes in Section V, after they were asked which athlete gained most of their attention with comments related to Floyd’s death:
Kaori Barley, East High basketball
A three-year starter on the East High varsity boys basketball team, Kaori Barley will celebrate his graduation, beginning with the school’s twin ceremonies on its athletic field June 26. His basketball playing days will continue at D’Youville College in Buffalo.
Barley, who lived with his parents in Henrietta and the city of Rochester during high school, is among the many fans who respect the activism and comments of basketball superstar LeBron James, who was once told to shut up and dribble by a newscaster.
“He posted a video that said shut up and dribble, shut up and stand still, shut up and lay on the ground and then it was shut up and don’t move. It shows that even if you are the best in the world, every Black man has to fear that. He posted something that just had the sound of a ball being dribbled.
“That shouldn’t be in the conversation. There are things we as Black men, we can face at any time, imagine what a regular black man is being told. It was just relatable. This can happen to anybody, even LeBron James.”
Jaelyn Davis, Rush-Henrietta track
Rush-Henrietta track and field sprinter Jaelyn Davis came across a video of National Football League players on Instagram that had a “chilling” effect on her.
“They were fighting for the NFL to be more vocal about what’s going on, to say we don’t tolerate racism. That video was amazing, chilling and moving. In so many sports, Black people are the majority.
“If all of the Black people in sports, even in college sports, left those establishments, companies and franchises would lose so much money. It would be so hard for them to recover.
“We make up so much of what sports is about. It’s hard seeing the NFL not coming out and fighting for their athletes (right away).”
Oumou Donzo, Rush-Henrietta soccer
Oumou Donzo, who plans to play a third varsity season at striker for Rush-Henrietta this fall, said she has stayed off of social media lately.
“It’s depressing what happened to him. The posts with Black Lives Matter, where everyone is coming together, the posts where whites, Blacks, Hispanics are coming together, are the most important. They are showing that times have changed.”
Quintin Everett, Monroe football
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees shared his stance on kneeling in front of the American flag as a form of protest, and was sharply criticized by teammates and other athletes, including LeBron James.
Everett, who is headed into his junior year season as the quarterback at Monroe in the Rochester City School District, was surprised that Brees shared that opinion in public, considering the mood of the nation.
“Nobody liked what he said, it was a situation everyone felt like it was wrong. Even legends who don’t play in the league anymore were mad about what he said. I agree. I was overwhelmed by what he said. It was just too much, he doesn’t know what it feels like to be Black. Blacks struggle for certain things.”
Marianna Freeman, Bishop Kearney
varsity girls basketball
Marianna Freeman, a guard on the Bishop Kearney girls basketball team, said she watched television coverage of a funeral service for Floyd, and that left a deeper impression with her than what she viewed and read on social media.
“(One of the speakers) told everybody to stand up for eight minutes, in silence, to recreate how long of a time period that is, how long he was on the ground, pleading for his life. That separated from every post, every donation. That really hit me … wow.”
Daquan Perry, Greece Athena football
There is a chance that Daquan Perry, an outside linebacker and running back at Greece Athena, may be a team captain during his senior year season. Perry picked up on a post on Instagram by NFL quarterback Cam Newton.
” ‘All for one, one for all. You don’t have to be black to fight for what’s right.’ I have a lot of friends who are different races. Right now, I’m hanging out with my friend, he’s Muslim. You don’t have to be black to fight. Anybody can fight for the good cause.”
Nygel Wiley, East United lacrosse
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz caught the attention of Nygel Wiley, who is headed to Bowling Green State in Ohio to study accounting after graduation from East High this month.
Wiley, who had three varsity seasons in lacrosse and two in football, read about how Wentz grew up in North Dakota, largely surrounded by other white people.
“He said he just wanted everything to stop. I can pull up his tweet: ‘Been thinking about George Floyd situation and thinking about the words to say and coming up empty. All that I know is that institutional racism in this country breaks my heart and needs to stop. Can’t even fathom what the black community has to endure on a daily basis.’
“It’s a hard topic to think about. There are many things people can say, and you say ‘Why would you say that?’ So Carson Wentz, an NFL quarterback, a Super Bowl champion, with him being a white male and admitting not understanding what we go through, stuck with me. He can’t do everything, but that post did enough. Now his family and friends can see how he feels and can hope to get them on his side, and everyone else in the world.”
Aquinas track and field
Nia Williams-Matthews, who walked the stage during the Aquinas graduation ceremonies June 6, counts down the days until she can head to Youngstown State University in Ohio, where she will compete in track and field on scholarship.
Williams also played volleyball for four seasons at Aquinas and spent three varsity seasons on the school’s girls basketball team. It was a post by National Basketball Association star guard Kryie Irving that stood out to her.
“It was about how resuming NBA games is not a good thing, it’s a distraction from the real issues going on. By the NBA resuming, how it’s going to distract people from talking about racism and police brutality.
“It is a distraction, (the games) are going to distract how African Americans are being treated poorly and things like that.”
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