WASHINGTON: Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose said thoughts of his toddler son spurred his support for the “I can’t breathe” protests sweeping the United States over the deaths of black men at the hands of police.
Rose created a small stir when he wore a black T-shirt reading “I can’t breathe” in warm-ups for the Bulls’ NBA game on Saturday.
On Monday he said the sartorial statement was in memory not only of Eric Garner, who uttered the words as he was held in a chokehold by a New York police officer and later died but also to mark the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teenager shot and killed by police in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson earlier this year.
“I think both stories are touching stories and I just wanted to show my support by wearing the shirt,” Rose said.
In both cases, grand juries declined to bring charges against the officers involved, sparking national protests centered on race.
“Usually I stay out of politics and police brutality,” Rose said. “I’m not saying all cops are bad or anything. I’m just saying what happened them days was uncalled for and I think it hurt a lot of people. It hurt the nation.
“Now that I’m a dad, it changed my outlook on life, period,” added the 26-year-old, whose son was born in 2012. “I don’t want my son growing up being scared of police or even have the thought in his mind that something like that could happen.”
Four-time NBA Most Valuable Player LeBron James and young Cleveland team-mate Kyrie Irving wore similar shirts warming up for the team’s game against the Nets in Brooklyn on Monday, just the latest professional sportsmen to lend support to the protests.
Detroit Lions running back Reggie Bush wore a top with “I can’t breathe” written on it ahead of an NFL game on Sunday, as did Cleveland Browns ace Johnson Bademosi.
Davin Joseph, a St Louis Rams guard, wrote the same words on his cleats and tweeted it, along with the caption: “RIP Eric Garner.”
Five Rams players had incurred the wrath of a St Louis police organization a week earlier when they entered the field with the same “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture adopted by protesters in Ferguson after the shooting of Brown.