George Floyd's brother Philonise backs Raiders owner Mark Davis after tweet fallout: 'Let's take this breath together'

Jason Owens
·3-min read

A day after a Las Vegas Raiders tweet stirred up a social media firestorm, George Floyd's brother Philonise is standing in support of team owner Mark Davis.

As teams and leagues across sports issued statements on the Derek Chauvin guilty verdict for murdering Floyd on Tuesday, the Raiders issued the following tweet:

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The tweet immediately drew widespread condemnation on social media. The unclear messaging appeared to reference Floyd's repeated pleas of "I can't breathe" as Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd's neck for more than nine minutes, resulting in his death. 

'I can breathe' was a rallying cry to dismiss police brutality

"I can breathe" was also previously used as a slogan to dismiss the concerns of protesters calling for action after the police killing of Eric Garner. In 2014, New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Garner in a chokehold in the moments leading up to his death. Like Floyd, Garner pleaded "I can't breathe" as Pantaleo maintained the chokehold.

Garner's final words became a rallying cry of protesters calling for police reform and accountability following Garner's death. Counter-protesters rejecting those concerns showed up to a rally wearing hoodies emblazoned with "I can breathe" and shouting "don't resist arrest" in an effort to blame Garner for his own death. 

Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, raises his fist following a news conference after the guilty verdict was read in the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Philonise Floyd thanked Mark Davis for the Raiders' support and called for unity in the fight for social and racial justice. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Davis wasn't aware of phrase's history, 'deeply disappointed'

Davis addressed the backlash to the tweet Tuesday evening, telling reporters that it was his idea alone. He said that he strictly intended the message to be an ode to Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd, who said in a news conference Tuesday: "Today we are able to breathe again."

"If I offended the family, then I'm deeply, deeply disappointed," Davis told The Athletic's Tashan Reed.

He also said that he wasn't previously aware of the "I can breathe" messaging surrounding Eric Garner's death.

"Let me say this right off the bat: I was not aware of that," Davis continued. "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."

Raiders didn't delete tweet

Davis declined to delete the tweet, telling the Associated Press that he wouldn't because the statement was already out there

“It’s a tough situation,” Davis said. “I feel bad it was taken in a way it wasn’t meant to be done. That can only be my fault for not explaining it.”

George Floyd's brother: 'Deepest gratitude' to Raiders

On Wednesday, Philonise Floyd issued a statement supporting Davis and thanking him for his support while calling for a united front in the fight for social and racial justice.

“On behalf of our family, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Las Vegas Raiders organization and its leadership for their support of our family and for our nation’s ongoing pursuit of justice and equality for all. Now more than ever, we must come together as one and continue on in this fight.

“For the first time in almost a year, our family has taken a breath. And I know that goes for so many across the nation and globe, as well. Let’s take this breath together in honor of my big brother who couldn’t. Let’s do it for George.”

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