Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
Amid nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in Minneapolis police custody, Vanessa Bryant posted a picture of her late husband, Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirt.
Bryant wrote the following on Instagram:
“My husband wore this shirt years ago and yet here we are again.💔#ICANTBREATHE…
“Life is so fragile. Life is so unpredictable. Life is too short. Let’s share and embrace the beautiful qualities and similarities we all share as people. Drive out hate. Teach respect and love for all at home and school. Spread LOVE. Fight for change- register to VOTE. Do not use innocent lives lost as an excuse to loot. BE AN EXAMPLE OF THE CHANGE WE WANT TO SEE. #BLACKLIVESMATTER ❤️.”
Bryant and the Lakers wore the T-shirts prior to a Dec. 9, 2014 home game against the Sacramento Kings. Greg Beacham of the Associated Press provided more information:
“Bryant, a 16-time All-Star and the fourth-leading scorer in NBA history, orchestrated the Lakers’ silent declaration of support for the family of Eric Garner, who died July 17 after a New York police officer placed him in a chokehold while he was being arrested.
“A recording of Garner’s arrest showed him gasping ”I can’t breathe” during the fatal encounter. Thousands have protested a grand jury decision not to indict the officer for several days, and Bryant sees the seeds of positive worldwide change in the tragedy.“
Bryant spoke more after the game, which resulted in Kobe scoring a team-high 32 points in a 98-95 victory:
”You’re kind of seeing a tipping point right now in terms of these social issues. It’s become at the forefront now, as opposed to just being a local issue. It’s something that’s carried over and spilled into mainstream. … You don’t just see African-Americans out there protesting. It’s not something that you just see in the United States of America. It’s become a global thing.
”They’re really questioning the justice system and questioning the process of the legal system, and those who have authority and whether or not they’re abusing authority, and what’s the threshold to use deadly force and so forth. But that’s what our nation is founded on. We have the ability to question these things in a peaceful fashion, and that’s what makes us a great country, is we have the ability to voice up. We have the platform to speak up, and we have the platform to affect change.”
Numerous NBA players have protested and spoken out in recent days, including—but not limited to—Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown, Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, Indiana Pacers point guard Malcolm Brogdon and New York Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr.