George Floyd’s family has been outspoken in the days since the Minneapolis man was killed by police in the city, and his famous friend has joined the outcry.
Retired NBA swingman Stephen Jackson was longtime friends with Floyd, their relationship sealed the moment they met, Jackson said on Thursday.
Appearing on NBC’s “Today Show,” Jackson said he and Floyd were introduced by a mutual friend years ago. Their resemblance to each other led them to ask, “Who yo’ daddy?,” Jackson recalled with a smile.
“And it went from there. We always hung together, every time we went to Houston it was my first stop, pick him up and see where he was in Cuney Homes [housing complex],” he said. “Being a professional athlete, so many people abuse your friendship and your kindness and he was one of those people that genuinely supported me; he didn’t call unless he really needed it. You don’t have many people that genuinely support you without any motives and Floyd was that guy.”
Jackson affectionately called Floyd “Twin.”
Police had Floyd in handcuffs after an employee at Cup Foods called police alleging that the 46-year-old had tried to use a counterfeit $20 bill, but officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes, as Floyd pleaded for his life and onlookers, who recorded the event, begged him to stop.
Jackson, who also hosts the “All the Smoke” podcast with former teammate Matt Barnes, said he was asleep on the couch with his daughter, when he woke up and saw a video sent by his girlfriend’s mother; the two frequently discuss police brutality issues.
“And I’m thinking it’s just another video that she’s sending me, another black man getting murdered by the police, and I didn’t really pay attention to it,” Jackson said.
But then he saw numerous messages from friends. “‘You see what they did to Twin in Minnesota?’ and I jumped up, screamed, scared my daughter, almost broke my hand punching stuff because I was so mad,” Jackson said. “I’m the type of guy, I get into a full face of tears when I see a homeless man on the street that I can’t help. So let alone my best friend on TV for the world to see, getting killed over a fraud charge or a fake $20 bill.
“It just destroyed me, and I haven’t been the same since I seen it.”
Not long after getting the news, Jackson recorded a video to Instagram, a white hoodie pulled over his hair, his hand rubbing his eyes.
“This what I got to wake up to, huh? This what I got to wake up to,” he said. “ ... My boy was doing what he’s supposed to do, y’all go and kill my brother man.”
In the video of the final moment of his life, Floyd cries out for his deceased mother. When “Today Show” host Craig Melvin mentions this, Jackson drops his head and is choked up.
“It hurt man, it hurt because I knew that was a cry for help,” Jackson said. “I’m a black man and I’m a strong black man and I know Floyd — that’s a cry for help. We don’t scream our mother’s name like that unless we know something is wrong and our life is in jeopardy and we can’t control it. That was a cry for help. He even cried out for his kids.
“His kids had to see that — I was talking to his daughter’s mother yesterday and the whole time I’m talking to her, the daughter is screaming. She has to see this, the whole world has to see this, and she has to deal with this for the rest of her life. It’s just not right, man.”
Jackson’s Instagram feed in the hours since has been filled with pictures of Floyd: wearing a gray suit vest and white button-down, another in a Houston Rockets hat, one of Floyd in his Yates High football uniform (at 6-foot-6 he was a standout tight end), of the men together with other friends.
There’s also a screenshot of a text from rapper Bun B, who is also from the Houston area. In it, he tells Jackson, “Everything about your life...everything you’ve been through ... it’s all led up to this moment. This is what you’ve been called to do. You’ve lost people close to you before. But this is different. Cuz you see yourself when you see him. You got this. Don’t hold back.”
Jackson replied, “10-4.”
Jackson is now in Minneapolis, and has promised that in the same way his name is famous as an NBA champion, Floyd’s name will be famous.
“A lot of police brutality has gone on, a lot of black young men have died. George Floyd’s name will be remembered because we’re going to get change. Change is going to start with George Floyd,” Jackson said. “We’re going to get change. This is not right.
On Thursday afternoon, Jackson posted that a justice rally for Floyd will take place on Friday on the plaza in front of the Hennepin County Government Center in downtown Minneapolis.
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