Athletes like LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, Bubba Wallace and Megan Rapinoe shared their thoughts after Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd

By Eric Todisco
April 21, 2021 03:53 PM
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Prominent sports figures have been sharing their reactions to Tuesday's guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin for murdering George Floyd, which sparked nationwide protests and a reckoning about racism and police brutality.

Minneapolis jurors found Chauvin, 45, guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He was taken away in handcuffs and will go directly to jail. He will be sentenced in eight weeks.

Listen below to the episode of our daily podcast PEOPLE Every Day for more on Derek Chauvin's conviction.

"ACCOUNTABILITY," Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James wrote on Twitter.

"Justice served on all counts. Good," said NASCAR's Bubba Wallace. "Still a ton of work to do. Continue to rest peacefully #GeorgeFloyd."

Retired WNBA star Renee Montgomery said, "Let's make this the new normal. Accountability is served #GeorgeFloyd."

"Justice and Accountability! Things I never thought I would see. There's much more work to do, but this is an amazing start working toward the reform this country NEEDS!" wrote Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns.

The verdict came nearly a year after Floyd, 46, a Black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis for allegedly spending a counterfeit $20 bill, died facedown on the ground with his hands cuffed behind him as Chauvin, a white officer, pinned his knee to Floyd's neck for about nine minutes.

Floyd's murder spawned protests and riots across the country last year. Many sports leagues, organizations and players took a public stand supporting the calls for racial justice.

George Floyd and Derek Chauvin
George Floyd, at left, and Derek Chauvin
| Credit: Splash
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Trailer for 144
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Members of the Miami Heat kneel before their game
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Some of those participating athletes, including Naomi Osaka and Megan Rapinoe, reacted to the verdict on social media and discussed the urgency of combatting police brutality.

"I was going to make a celebratory tweet but then I was hit with sadness because we are celebrating something that is clear as day. The fact that so many injustices occurred to make us hold our breath toward this outcome is really telling," tweeted Osaka.

Rapinoe tweeted, "Sending love and strength to Minn today, to the family and community of #GeorgeFloyd and so many others. Whatever happens, #derickchauvin killed George, we know this. Let's continue to fight for a world where this doesn't happen. #DefundThePolice#BlackLivesMatter."

In addition, the NBA, WNBA, MLB, NFL, NHL, MLS and more sports organizations all released statements addressing the guilty verdict.

Lebron James, Naomi Osaka, Megan Rapinoe
Lebron James, Naomi Osaka, Megan Rapinoe
| Credit: Atiba Jefferson/NBAE via Getty; Julian Finney/Getty; Gareth Cattermole - FIFA/FIFA via Getty

Outside of the sports world, President Joe Biden addressed the guilty verdict, saying it was "a giant step towards justice in America," but adding it is still "not enough."

"Black men, in particular, have been treated throughout the course of our history as less than human. Their lives must be valued in our nation. Full stop," Biden said, recognizing that no amount of progress or justice would bring Floyd back to his grieving loved ones.

In remarks before Biden spoke, Vice President Kamala Harris urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which has already passed in the House of Representatives.

"Today we feel a sigh of relief, still, it cannot take away the pain. A measure of justice isn't the same as equal justice," she said. "This verdict brings us a step closer, and the fact is, we still have work to do. We still must reform the system."

Celebrities like Cardi B, Kerry Washington, Mariah Carey and Mickey Guyton, as well as former President Barack Obama and Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, all shared messages about the verdict.

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Second-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 40 years in prison; third-degree murder has a penalty up to 25, and manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 10 years.

The presiding judge, Peter A. Cahill, has wide discretion in how he imposes the sentences. It's unclear whether Chauvin's status as a first-time offender will result in a shorter sentence.

According to the New York Times, the recommended sentence in for a first-time offender found guilty of second- or third-degree murder is 12 1/2 years in Minnesota. The recommended sentence for manslaughter is 4 years.

To help combat systemic racism, consider learning from or donating to these organizations:

  • Campaign Zero (joincampaignzero.org) which works to end police brutality in America through research-proven strategies.
  • ColorofChange.org works to make the government more responsive to racial disparities.
  • National Cares Mentoring Movement (caresmentoring.org) provides social and academic support to help Black youth succeed in college and beyond.