Raptors post emotional ‘I can’t breathe’ video in honour of George Floyd

Toronto Raptors players and staff showed their support for people protesting racial injustice around the world in a video shared on the team’s social media channels.

The video features members of the Raptors — including Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, OG Anuonoby, head coach Nick Nurse and president Massai Ujiri — reading a spoken word poem titled “I can’t breathe.”

The words to the poem, written by Michael Tyler, are as follows:

I can’t breathe
It’s a simple phrase
I can’t breathe
A little plea that prays

I can’t breathe
A call to recognize
I can’t breathe
The fear that’s in my eyes

I can’t breathe
One man’s life in a sidewalk check
I can’t breathe
Ended by a knee on the neck

I can’t breathe
Look around to those you see
I can’t breathe
See yourself as you see me

I can’t breathe
If I am the next to die
I can’t breathe
Ask yourself the reason why

Let’s all breathe
Let’s all rise above
Let’s all breathe
With newfound hope, and unbound love.

The emotional poem pays tribute through its “I can’t breathe” refrain to George Floyd, an African-American man, who died in police custody after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The incident was captured on video, during which Floyd could be heard saying “I can’t breathe” prior to his death.

An independent autopsy has since found that Floyd’s death was caused by asphyxia due to neck and back compression that led to a lack of blood flow to the brain. Chauvin was fired and eventually charged with second-degree murder, while the three other officers who witnessed the incident were also fired and subsequently charged with aiding and abetting.

Since Floyd’s death on May 25, people have taken to the streets and social media around the world to protest against police brutality and to show support for a more just and equal society.

“We need action,” Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum says at the end of the Raptors’ video. “I promise we will take action.”

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