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Raiders receive backlash for ‘I can breathe’ tweet; owner Mark Davis says team won’t delete post

The Raiders on Tuesday received backlash for a tone-deaf tweet following the conviction of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.

Chauvin, who was seen on video kneeling on George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds, was convicted Tuesday on three charges in connection to the latter’s May 25, 2020 death: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Those convictions carry max sentences of 40, 20 and 10 years, respectively.

The verdict prompted statements from several professional leagues and teams, many of which stated their continued support to end systemic racism and racial injustice. The Raiders tweeted a graphic with a single phrase: “I can breathe.”

The one-word statement was viewed by many as a flippant, tone-deaf reversal of Floyd’s cry of “I can’t breathe,” which footage shows he uttered more than 20 times during the nearly 10 minutes Chauvin knelt on his neck.

Others pointed out similarities to black-and-white T-shirts worn by supporters of the New York Police Department in December 2014; roughly 100 such supporters wore the shirts, which read, “I can breathe, thanks to the NYPD.” The group also chanted, “Don’t resist arrest,” clashing with another group protesting a grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the July 17, 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Garner’s last words were, “I can’t breathe.”

Tashan Reed, the Raiders beat writer for The Athletic, spoke with team owner Mark Davis, who explained the tweet was based on statements made by Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd (he said, “We are able to breathe again” following Chauvin’s conviction).

#Raiders owner Mark Davis said the “I Can Breathe” wording came from George Floyd’s brother Philonise, who said “Today, we are able to breathe again.”

Davis added: “If I offended the family, then I’m deeply, deeply disappointed.”

He also said the post won’t be deleted.

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) April 21, 2021

Davis said he wasn’t aware that NYPD supporters wore “I Can Breathe” shirts following the 2014 killing of Eric Garner. After I brought that up to him he said, “I learned something… I have to do a little bit more research into that just so I can speak coherently on that aspect.”

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) April 21, 2021

More from Davis: “Let me say this right off the bat: I was not aware of that. Absolutely not. I had no idea of that. 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.”

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) April 21, 2021

Davis: “I will not delete it. I could un-pin it and let it run its course. It’s already out there, Tashan… I rarely, rarely post stuff, but I’m not into erasing something. It’s not an apology. I’m not embarrassed by what I said, but I did learn something now.”

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) April 21, 2021

Davis: “I wasn’t watching the talking heads; I was listening to the family. And I was trying to take my lead from them. But if that’s (the “I Can Breath” t-shirts) are what the cops are wearing then, really, it is a bad statement.”

— Tashan Reed (@tashanreed) April 21, 2021

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