Las Vegas Raiders Tweet on George Floyd Case Criticized But Owner Backs Message

Posted on: April 21, 2021, 02:02h. 

Last updated on: April 21, 2021, 12:16h.

Like many sports franchises and other organizations, the Las Vegas Raiders shared their feelings about Tuesday’s verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin. He is the former Minnesota cop found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

Mark Davis, the owner of the Las Vegas Raiders, speaks at a January 2020 news conference that served as the first official event for the team after it moved from Oakland. On Tuesday, Davis and the team received criticism for a tweet he said meant to show support for George Floyd’s family. (Image: Steve Marcus/AP)

The Raiders’ message, posted on Twitter for all to see, did not go as planned.

Late Tuesday afternoon, the team tweeted an image that read “I CAN BREATHE 4-20-21” without any other text accompanying the graphic. The immediate responses almost universally called for the team to take it down.

Chauvin, who is White, was arrested last May after a video showed he knelt on the neck of Floyd, who is Black, for nearly nine minutes as he and other officers tried to arrest Floyd.

In a subsequent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Raiders owner Mark Davis defended the tweet, adding that it was his idea.

I was listening to George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, speak,” Davis told the newspaper. “And he said, ‘Today, we are able to breathe again.’ I took my lead from him. In my mind, that was all I needed to say — ‘I can breathe.’”

However, those same three words were also used on a t-shirt that mocked the death of Eric Garner, a Black man who died in 2014 after a New York City Police officer put him in a chokehold. Garner, like Floyd, uttered “I can’t breathe” before he died.

“I keep double-checking to see if the @Raiders verified account actually tweeted this,” tweeted Emmanuel Acho, a Fox Sports analyst and host of a video series, Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.

Davis ‘Not Apologizing’

Rather than take down the tweet, though, the Raiders owner defended it.

“It’s rare I make statements about anything, and if I thought it offended the (Floyd) family, I would feel very badly and apologize,” Davis told the Review-Journal.

Other than that, I’m not apologizing. I honesty believe after listening to Philonise, this is a day that we can all breathe,” Davis continued.

Davis inherited the Raiders from his father, Al Davis, whose history with the team dates back to 1963 and who took over managing ownership in 1972. Al Davis was a maverick owner. However, he also served as a pioneer by hiring Tom Flores, a Mexican-American, and Art Shell, a Black man, to head coaching positions.

And after the death of Floyd last May, Mark Davis also posted a statement on the Raiders website in which he said watching the video of a uniformed police officer murdering a man while other officers did not intervene was “disturbing in too many ways.”

“Not only do we have to tell people there is something wrong, we have to come up with solutions,” Davis said at the time. “That’s the challenge in front of us. Not only as Americans, but as human beings.”

Backlash Against Raiders, Sponsors Coming?

However well-meaning Davis meant the tweet, the backlash could prove costly. Not only does Davis own the Raiders, but in January, he agreed to buy the Las Vegas Aces of the WNBA. The league formally approved the sale a month later.

The WNBA, though, made headlines throughout the past year for its social activism in the wake of Floyd’s death and other similar cases.

The issue could, potentially, become problematic for sponsors and partners of the Raiders. Especially if activists call on boycotting the team and those that support it until the team takes down the tweet.

Several gaming operators have sponsorships and partnerships. Most notably, the M Resort Spa Casino in Henderson. Not only is it the official hotel of the team, it just opened the Raiders Tavern & Grill inside the resort.

The team also has partnerships with MGM Resorts International – its official gaming partner – and Aristocrat Technologies, which has naming rights on a club at the Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium.