On May 25, 2020, a 46-year-old African-American man named George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota on camera as he was being detained by four officers for suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a market. Despite the initial claim of the Minneapolis police, video footage released suggests that there was no sign of resisting from Floyd during the arrest. In the footage taken at the scene, after walking around with a handcuffed Floyd, the four officers got Floyd on the ground and then-officer Derek Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for approximately nine minutes. During that time, Floyd repeatedly exclaimed, “I can’t breathe,” and soon became unresponsive before Chauvin lifted his knee. The aftermath of George Floyd’s death has led to protests in every state for the past eight days.
One of the leaders of this movement to get justice for Floyd is former NBA player Stephen Jackson, who spent 14 years in the NBA and won a championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 2003. Like Floyd, Jackson is from the Houston, Texas area which is where the two met years ago back when Floyd still lived in Houston. Since 2014, Floyd had been living in Minneapolis.
Since Floyd’s death by the hands of Minneapolis Police, Stephen Jackson has been fighting for justice for his friend, who he referred to as his twin because of their similar resemblance. On Monday, Jackson spoke with ESPN reporter Marc Spears about how he and Floyd first meet.
“We have a homeboy named Tello, rest in peace Tello. He’s gone now. He was from Port Arthur, but he used to be in Houston as well. Houston is 45 minutes from my hometown. So I’m in Houston back and forth,” explains Jackson. “So he came and he’s like, ‘I’m bringing my homeboy Floyd down here next week. He played basketball too, but y’all look alike. You might have the same dad.’ I’m like, please man. So he brings Floyd down, I look at Floyd, and the first thing we both say is, ‘Who’s your daddy?’ From looking alike and from that day forward, we just had a bond. We became tight.”
During his playing career, Jackson was known as a fierce competitor who talked a lot of smack and wasn’t afraid to go against anybody. This tenacity has been on full display amidst country-wide protests in the name of racial justice. Jackson has gone from being known as a “bad boy” to a staunch political activist in the span of eight days. He has been leading several protests in Minnesota and conducting press conferences every other day demanding justice for his friend who he considered to be a brother. Jackson has also made it a mission of his to take care of Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna. At a June 2 press conference in Minnesota, Jackson looked directly at Gianna’s mother Roxie Washington when talking about how he was gonna look after her daughter.
“But you know what, there’s a lot of stuff you said that he’s going to miss, that I’m going to be there for,” Jackson said, turning to Washington. “I’m going to walk her down the aisle, I’m going to be there for her, I’m going to be there to wipe your tears. You hear what I’m saying? I’m going to be here for you and Gigi.”
It is the people like Stephen Jackson that are so incredibly important in the fight for social justice. Having someone like Jackson protesting can pay huge dividends given his ability to use his platform and fame. His position as a celebrity helps people listen to him and gives him a wider audience. So far the hard work from Jackson has paid off, as it was announced on Wednesday that all four officers involved in the murder of George Floyd have been charged. Tou Thao, Thomas K. Lane and J. Alexander Keung have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. Chauvin, who was seen on video with his knee on Floyd’s neck saw his charge of third-degree murder amended to second-degree murder.