Integrity comes at a steep price; you don’t become a billionaire by being morally sound. Diddy can’t even drive his kids to school without somebody reminding him that he robbed every artist on Bad Boy, and I would imagine that NFL ownership—where individual net worths can soar as high as $13 billion—features a similar collection of characters who rely on either apathy or outright cruelty as a business model.
The thing about apathy is that it doesn’t always manifest itself in the intent, but it’s nearly impossible to deny in the execution. So when Las Vegas Raiders owner Mark Davis takes responsibility for the Raiders’ account tweeting “I can breathe” following the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd, but refuses to take it down after being called out for being insensitive, his true intent reveals itself. Because it’s easy to pretend like you give a shit about Black lives until you’re pressed to provide an explanation for this:
But I’ll allow Davis to attempt to explain himself.
“That’s my tweet,” he told the Las Vegas 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 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.’”
OK. So even though the execution was trash, he was well-intended. And if that’s the case, I’m sure once somebody explains to him why posting “I can breathe” is incredibly offensive, then he’ll just learn from what’s clearly a mistake and take the tweet down, right?
According to Tashan Reed of The Athletic, somebody did exactly that. And not only did Davis still refuse to take down the tweet, he then proceeded to white-splain why we shouldn’t take offense to it.
“I wasn’t watching the talking heads,” Davis told Reed. “I was listening to the family. And I was trying to take my lead from them. But if that’s (the ‘I Can Breath’ t-shirts) are what the cops are wearing then, really, it is a bad statement.”
Sooooooooo if it’s a bad statement then why not delete your tweet in support of it?
Oh, that’s right. Because you don’t actually give a shit about Derek Chauvin being held accountable for murdering an unarmed Black man; you give a shit about attention and optics. You had every intention of capitalizing off of Black plight by doing what you thought you were supposed to do until your true intentions were held under the microscope—then the truth came out in the wash.
This type of behavior is exactly why so many Black and Brown folks call bullshit on allyship. Chauvin’s convictions for second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter were something we never thought we’d see in our lifetimes. And while they won’t return Floyd to life, they will imbue the next generation of organizers and activists with the hope of a more fair and impartial tomorrow. They also set a new precedent for police accountability moving forward.
People like Davis could give a shit less about any of that because it’s not his children getting mowed down by police for merely existing. His brothers aren’t being choked out over cigarettes; his sisters aren’t being shot in their own hallways. That doesn’t mean he’s not capable of empathy; it means he doesn’t have any—as evidenced by his response when he got called out for that tweet.
To us, “I Can Breathe” is spit in our face. It’s a literal mockery of our existence.
To Davis, “I Can Breathe” is our own failure to recognize compassion.
If there’s one thing white folks love to do, it’s to distort our lived experiences by telling us how to feel about them. Davis can rewrite apologies to season ticket holders, but he sure as hell can’t rewrite history. And while Chauvin’s convictions could serve as a decisive moment for police accountability, hopefully Davis’ actions do the same for what fans will and won’t tolerate from team owners.