Sports | April 21, 2021 11:10 am

Raiders Owner Mark Davis “Not Embarrassed” by “I Can Breathe” Verdict Tweet, Won’t Delete It

Davis said he didn't realize the connection to the killing of another Black man by police officers

Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis
Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis in March 2020.
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty

After former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on Tuesday of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter for the killing of George Floyd, Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis, like many in the NFL, felt compelled to tweet about the verdict.

Davis, who goes to P.F. Chang’s to lick his wounds and spicy sauce off his fingers after his team loses, kept his statement on the team’s official account very brief: “I Can Breathe 4-20-21.”

Quickly met with backlash, the tweet was a poor choice of words for many reasons, the most obvious of which being that supporters of the New York Police Department had worn “I can breathe” T-shirts after the death of Black man Eric Garner in 2014 at the hands of law enforcement.

Davis, who said he was unaware of that connection (even though he clearly reads the newspaper), explained he intended to reference a comment made by Floyd’s brother while speaking with The Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“That’s my tweet. That was me,” Davis told the Review-Journal. “I don’t want anyone in the organization taking heat. I take full responsibility for that. I was driving home from a meeting (Tuesday) when the verdict came in. Soon after, I was listening to George Floyd’s brother, Philonise, speak. 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.’ I believe it has a lot of context. [Chauvin] was on his neck for more than nine minutes and was found guilty on all counts. And now, his knee is fully off his neck. Unfortunately, it’s a little too late.”

Davis told ESPN that he “meant no disrespect” to Floyd’s family with the tweet and that “we have a lot of work to do still on social justice and police brutality.”

After saying he would be “deeply, deeply disappointed” if the tweet he authored offended the Floyd family, Davis told The Athletic that the post will not be deleted. “I could un-pin it and let it run its course. It’s already out there,” Davis said. “It’s not an apology. I’m not embarrassed by what I said, but I did learn something now.”

Well, at least the 66-year-old, who used to drive a ’97 Dodge Caravan SE outfitted with a VHS player mounted to the roof inside, learned a lesson.

In the wake of the uproar over the tweet, Floyd’s brother Philonise issued a statement of support on Wednesday for what Davis and Raiders posted on Twitter.

“On behalf of our family, I would like to extend our deepest gratitude to the Las Vegas Raiders organization and its leadership for their support of our family and for our nation’s ongoing pursuit of justice and equality for all. Now, more than ever, we must come together as one and continue on in this fight. For the first time in almost a year, our family has taken a breath. And I know that goes for so many across the nation and globe, as well. Let’s take this breath together in honor of my big brother who couldn’t. Let’s do it for George,” Philonise Floyd said, per the Star-Tribune.

In addition to many other teams and owners releasing statements, all of which were worded more thoughtfully than Davis’s, the NFL also sent an official statement about the verdict to players and league employees.

“Today’s outcome in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis does not undo the loss of life,” the NFL statement said. “Today’s outcome in the Derek Chauvin trial in Minneapolis does not undo the loss of life. Mr. George Floyd should be here with us today. Our hearts remain with the Floyd family, and we understand the pain, anger and frustration does not go away even when justice is delivered. Importantly, even as we identify reasons for hope, we must continue to help move our society toward a more equal and just tomorrow. We are proud to partner with NFL players and clubs and remain committed to do the important work needed to make positive change in our society.”