Area ath­letes re­act to Floyd, protests

Sev­eral black Cen­tral Florida high school foot­ball play­ers ex­press their feel­ings.

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - By Chris Hays

Sev­eral black Cen­tral Florida high school foot­ball play­ers say they are an­gry, con­fused, dis­cour­aged, ner­vous and ex­pe­ri­enc­ing many more emo­tions as they have watched large protests un­fold across the coun­try.

Many used the same word to sum up the so­cial un­rest: crazy.

“It’s crazy, just plain non­sense,” Edge­wa­ter ris­ing se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Ken­neth Brown said Sun­day, six days af­ter black man Ge­orge Floyd died while com­plain­ing he could not breath as he was be­ing de­tained by a white Min­neapo­lis po­lice of­fi­cer.

“It was crazy and it hurt be­cause if it could hap­pen to him, it could hap­pen to any­body,” West Or­ange ris­ing sopho­more de­fen­sive back Jor­dan Castell said.

The death of Floyd has sparked protests across the coun­try. Of­fi­cer Derek Chau­vin was cap­tured on video press­ing his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine min­utes as he lay on the ground in hand­cuffs.

Floyd’s death was added to a long list of un­armed black men and women killed by po­lice the past few years, trig­ger­ing a mix of grief and out­rage. While many day­time protests have been peace­ful, they have turned vi­o­lent at night in cities all over the United States for five con­sec­u­tive nights. Of­fi­cials in 13 states, in­clud­ing Florida, have re­sponded to de­struc­tion of prop­erty and loot­ing by call­ing up the Na­tional Guard.

“The [ri­ot­ers] are de­stroy­ing a beau­ti­ful na­tion try­ing to get one point across,” Brown said. “I don’t think it’s go­ing to work. They’re get­ting the point across, but at the same time it’s go­ing to put ev­ery­one more on their toes and on alert in the wrong way.

“But the riot parts and the go­ing out and break­ing every­thing, that’s a self­ish way of try­ing to get your point across. It’s like they’re try­ing to make a good point, but they’re all still go­ing to look bad while do­ing it.”

Semi­nole ris­ing se­nior quar­ter­back Timmy McClain Jr., how­ever, said maybe the protests are ex­actly what’s needed.

“The protests and what people are do­ing right now, I think it’s right for them to do that,” McClain said. “I don’t think that’s a prob­lem at all be­cause all of this other stuff

needs to stop. The only way it can stop is that ev­ery­one needs to come to­gether.

“[Floyd’s death] was wrong and it was a tragic death. It didn’t need to hap­pen like that at all. I just hope one day all colors of skin can re­spect each other and end racism, re­ally. … The stuff go­ing on right now is go­ing to work, hope­fully.

“The loot­ing and stuff and burn­ing down Tar­get, though. … That doesn’t work.”

Boone ris­ing se­nior de­fen­sive line­man Sham­bre Jack­son said he un­der­stands the protests, but that doesn’t mean he fig­ures there will be change.

“I think it’s crazy and dis­gust­ing; every­thing about it. I do un­der­stand it and with the Ge­orge Floyd sit­u­a­tion, it’s crazy and people have had enough of it,” Jack­son said. “My mom al­ways taught me to re­spect po­lice even though they might even treat you as a bad guy or a thug be­cause of my skin color.

“I un­der­stand it and it’s just some­thing you gotta live with.”

Jones High ris­ing se­nior de­fen­sive back Ricky Smith said he isn’t sure how ef­fec­tive the protests will be, but he un­der­stands why they are draw­ing big crowds.

“I got two opin­ions. Some of [the ri­ot­ing] is not worth it be­cause it can make things worse than what it is al­ready,” Smith said. “But at the same time, we tried to be peace­ful and all of that and it didn’t work ei­ther, so now they’re tak­ing it to a new level. They’re just try­ing to get at­ten­tion be­cause it’s been hap­pen­ing for so long.

“But when I saw that video [of Ge­orge Floyd] I thought, ‘Man, that could hap­pen to any­body right now.’”

Many of the play­ers said they were con­cerned that gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, all the way up to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, have not done enough to help.

“I feel like they’re not re­ally try­ing to do any­thing be­cause if they wanted to make a change, they would have done some­thing by now,” Smith said. “They would have stressed that the po­lice need to en­force the rules the same way [for black people] that reg­u­lar people al­ready have.”

Many play­ers strug­gle to un­der­stand why —157 years af­ter Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln is­sued the Eman­ci­pa­tion Procla­ma­tion, free­ing slaves in the re­bel­lious states — in­equal­ity still per­sists for black men and women.

“I used to hear about it a lot when I was young,’’ Castell said, “but now that I’m liv­ing it, this is crazy.”

The play­ers said some of what they’re feel­ing is fa­mil­iar. This isn’t the first time they’ve watched as people have spo­ken out af­ter an un­armed black man was killed by po­lice.

“I am sur­prised, but then again, I’m not. This has been go­ing on for a long time and there has been no change, what­so­ever. I think this hap­pens ev­ery year … that a cop sees a black man and they need to shoot him.” McClain said. “We need to stop all the killing.

“I know I feel ner­vous when a cop pulls me over. Black people get ner­vous and cops are sup­posed to res­cue people and stop crime. When black people are ner­vous, cops aren’t do­ing their jobs.”

Now many black play­ers do not think they can trust po­lice.

“Im­me­di­ately I thought that was wrong. You have people who are sup­posed to be there for our pro­tec­tion and, not only one guy, but you have mul­ti­ple [po­lice of­fi­cers] there who are sup­posed to be there for our pro­tec­tion,” Brown said, “But how can we ex­pect you to pro­tect us when y’all just go­ing around and killing. It’s al­most like they’re hav­ing fun with it.

“How can I trust them when they’re go­ing around killing un­armed people? So what if some­thing is wrong? Am I sup­posed to call the po­lice? Is it safer? No. Don’t call the po­lice. They might end up killing one of us. So for me, it’s nerve-wrack­ing.

It’s a headache.

“Al­ready it feels like they fear us be­cause of our skin, but it’s any­thing. You look at them wrong or shake their hand wrong, or be­cause of what­ever you wear they feel some type of fear. If your pants are saggy, they feel some type of fear. … They’re judg­ing people be­fore they even know them, and that’s not how life’s sup­posed to go.”

Brown com­pared the di­vided coun­try to one at war.

“It’s more than just ri­ots. A lot of ten­sion is be­ing built. The last time some­thing re­ally hap­pened like this was dur­ing the war for our in­de­pen­dence,” Brown said, al­lud­ing to free­ing the slaves dur­ing the Civil War. “What did that lead to? The de­struc­tion of our whole na­tion. It was de­stroyed and had to be re­built. All across the United States, that’s what’s go­ing on right now. To me it feels like there’s a war go­ing on right now.

“I’m dis­gusted, to tell you the truth. It makes me sick to my stom­ach. You can’t be em­bar­rassed for our coun­try be­cause our coun­try isn’t em­bar­rassed for it­self. Am I sym­pa­thetic? No. … I’ve just lost con­fi­dence in a lot of things. This is just mak­ing it a lot worse.”

The play­ers don’t have much hope the is­sues lead­ing to the protests will be re­solved soon.

“I think it will al­ways be like that,” Castell said.

PA­TRICK CON­NOLLY/ORLANDO SEN­TINEL

Pro­test­ers march near Lake Eola on Sun­day. It was the sec­ond night of protests in Orlando af­ter the death of Ge­orge Floyd in Min­nesota.

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/ORLANDO SEN­TINEL

Semi­nole quar­ter­back Timmy McClain Jr. (2) said he hopes protests bring about change be­cause he doesn’t feel safe when pulled over by po­lice.

STEPHEN M. DOW­ELL/ORLANDO SEN­TINEL

Semi­nole QB Timmy McClain Jr. : “I just hope one day all colors of skin can re­spect each other and end racism, re­ally. … The stuff go­ing on right now is go­ing to work, hope­fully.’’

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