Four-time Olympic champion, Michael Johnson, has revealed that the fallout from the death of George Floyd has convinced him that the world’s leading sports athletes must use their platform to call for change louder than they ever have done before, and blamed Donald Trump for fuelling the divide that has led to the disturbing scenes across the United States over the last week.
Floyd was killed on May 25 while in police custody, with a video revealing a policeman forcing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while he was handcuffed and on the ground. The incident was the latest in a long line of controversies surrounding police brutality of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals, following the recent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, as well as one in New York’s Central Park where a white woman who was asked to leash her dog in a restricted area called the police and accused an innocent black man of attacking her.
Widespread protests, both peaceful and violent, have erupted across the United States, while police used aggressive tactics and brutality to counter the large gatherings. On Monday night, disturbing scenes outside the White House were witnessed while President Trump was threatening to deploy the military on protesters, triggering a furious response that he was fuelling the situation instead of easing it.
Johnson was asked about the situation and, as a prominent black American sportsman, whether he felt that those in similar positions as him should feel required to speak out against racial injustice.
“If you had asked me that same question – and I’ve been asked that question for years about whether or not athletes have a responsibility or celebrities and prominent people should speak out on these issues – my position has always been if you feel you can help, and you feel compelled to do so, then do so,” Johnson said on the Will Greenwood Podcast for Sky Sports.