NBA superstar LeBron James has spoken out over the police killing of George Floyd, a black man living in the midwestern U.S. state of Minnesota.
Four police officers have been fired as a result of Floyd’s death, who suffocated after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with his knee on Floyd’s neck.
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In the video filmed by a bystander, a shirtless Floyd -- thought to be in his 40s -- is pinned on the ground by a white officer who kneels on his neck for more than five minutes.
"Your knee in my neck. I can't breathe... Mama. Mama," Floyd pleaded.
Floyd slowly grew silent and motionless, unable to move even as the officers taunted him to "get up and get in the car."
He was taken to hospital where he was later declared dead.
LA Lakers star James was one of many athletes, including WNBA legend Lisa Leslie, to speak out against the officers involved, drawing comparisons between a picture of the now former policeman kneeling on Floyd’s neck, and an image of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was blackballed from the league over his Black Lives Matter protests during the national anthem.
“Do you understand NOW!!??!!?? Or is it still blurred to you?? #StayWoke,” James captioned his Instagram post.
Two-time WNBA champion and three-time MVP Leslie took to Twitter, sharing the same image as James with an equally emotive caption.
“If anybody that follows me is not outraged about these senseless attacks on BLACK MEN, please stop following me!” Leslie said.
“If your spirit is not disturbed, please stop following me! This inflicted Pain but it will never inflict FEAR... sorry, were not made like that!”
If anybody that follows me is not outraged about these senseless attacks on BLACK MEN, please stop following me! If your spirit is not disturbed, please stop following me! This inflicted Pain but it will never inflict FEAR... sorry, were not made like that! #BlackMenMatter pic.twitter.com/A9tSSzOSh6— Lisa Leslie (@LisaLeslie) May 27, 2020
Protests erupt after death of George Floyd
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said he had passed the case to the FBI for investigation, which could turn it into a federal rights violation case.
But there were mounting calls for the officers' arrest on homicide charges.
"This is pure evil," tweeted Nekima Levy Armstrong, an African-American Minneapolis civil rights attorney.
"Those same officers need to be charged and convicted of murder."
Bernice King, daughter of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King, tweeted a composite image showing a screenshot of the officer kneeling on Floyd's neck next to a photo of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the US national anthem in protest over police brutality and social injustice.
"If you're unbothered or mildly bothered by the 1st knee, but outraged by the 2nd, then, in my father's words, you're "more devoted to order than to justice"," King tweeted.