The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Redskins players voice anger, sadness over George Floyd’s death

Adrian Peterson played for the Minnesota Vikings for 10 seasons and knows the city of Minneapolis well. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

From the chorus of celebrities, politicians and other high-profile figures calling for justice after the death of George Floyd, a black man who had a fatal encounter with four Minneapolis police officers Monday, one of the loudest voices to emerge belonged to Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson.

“The right call is locking these animals up for murdering George Floyd!!!" Peterson wrote on Twitter on Wednesday night in response to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey (D), who tweeted the police department had fired the four officers involved in Floyd’s death.

“What video did you watch?! Is it the same one where you hear a man begging for his life!” Peterson continued, before referencing the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck while Floyd cried he couldn’t breathe. “This animal is literally pressing down on his knee to apply max pressure!”

NFL players, including Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt, Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill and Seattle Seahawks tackle Duane Brown, spoke out Wednesday as protests continued for a second day in Minneapolis. The community was outraged because the officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck was fired, not arrested, for what many saw as a criminal act. Frey later urged the county prosecutor to arrest the officer.

The incident started Monday when police arrested Floyd because, they said, he matched the description of someone who tried to pass off a counterfeit bill at a convenience store. It remains unclear why Floyd was apprehended in such a physical manner. The officer’s knee maneuver was not approved by the police force or the state licensing body.

“When I turned 16, I never understood why my parents sat me down and gave me the ‘this is what you do when you get pulled over’ speech,” Redskins defensive back Jeremy Reaves wrote in a since-deleted tweet. “Now I know they explained it out of fear, and the little comfort for them was that I would know how to handle the situation.. And that’s so sad..”

“Somethings gotta change..” tweeted Redskins rookie running back Antonio Gibson. “This stuff getting wayyy outta hand...”

By Peterson’s reaction, the incident seemed personal. He started his career with the Minnesota Vikings in 2007 and played there for a decade. He is still fond of Minneapolis and pushed through an ankle injury to play there with the Redskins in October. He felt like six seasons of rushing dominance, capped by his 2,097 yards and an NFL MVP award in 2012, helped the city secure the political votes necessary to build U.S. Bank Stadium near downtown.

Yet the city he loves has faced criticism in recent years for its law enforcement’s use of force. In 2016, a suburban officer shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile during a traffic stop, which was live-streamed on Facebook. In 2017, a Minneapolis police officer fatally shot 40-year-old Justine Damond after she called 911 to report a possible assault near her house. Those incidents seemed to compound with the frustration of Floyd’s death and the disproportionate effect the novel coronavirus outbreak has had on black communities.

“I’m tired of walking around ANGRY! Watching as our people are treated like nothing,” Peterson tweeted Wednesday night. “It’s time to stand up and make sure we protect our own. I couldn’t help but think as I witnessed the murder of George Floyd, if I was there this man would be alive!

“There’s no way that I personally could sit there and watch another human being be murdered by hands of those who swore to protect us! So sad!!! I’m trying my hardest not to allow my heart to become hardened!!!”

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