Sports

Jets captain Blake Wheeler says 'America is not OK' amid protests

Winnipeg Jets forward and Minnesota native Blake Wheeler joined a growing list of athletes speaking out following the death of George Floyd in the U.S., writing "we need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism."

'I'm heartbroken that we still treat people this way,' says winger

Blake Wheeler is one of many professional athletes to speak out following the death of George Floyd. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Winnipeg Jets forward and Minnesota native Blake Wheeler joined a growing list of athletes speaking out following the death of George Floyd. 

Wheeler took to Twitter Saturday night amid another day of tense protests, which began in Minneapolis following Monday's death of Floyd after a police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes.

Officer Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Floyd's death has also resulted in protests across the United States. with police cars set ablaze and reports of injuries mounting on all sides as the country lurched toward another night of unrest after months of coronavirus lockdowns.

"I've wanted to say something for a while, but it's been really difficult knowing what to say. My hometown is burning. Businesses where I grew up are being boarded up. America is not OK," Wheeler wrote.

"Growing up outside Minneapolis, I always felt sheltered from racism. That's because I was," he continued. "Most people I grew up with looked like me. I never had to be scared when I stopped at a traffic light or saw the police in public. My kids will never know that fear either.

"I'm heartbroken that we still treat people this way. We need to stand with the black community and fundamentally change how the leadership in this country has dealt with racism. I'm sorry it has taken this long, but I'm hopeful that we can change this NOW. George Floyd's life mattered. Ahmaud Arbery's life mattered. So did every other life that has been lost by this senseless violence and racism," Wheeler concluded.

WATCH | Police fire tear gas on protesters:

CBC senior correspondent Susan Ormiston reports from Minneapolis, where police fire tear gas on protesters 5:01

Wheeler was not the only NHL player to speak up about Floyd's death. San Jose Sharks forwards Evander Kane and Logan Couture also took to Twitter to share their thoughts.

J.T. Brown is from Burnsville, Minnesota and he plays for the Iowa Wild, the AHL affiliate of the Minnesota Wild.

Brown is donating to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, a nonprofit paying bail for the activists protesting for justice for Floyd. He took to Twitter to encourage others to donate to the nonprofit organization.

NHL encourages using platform

The NHL followed with a statement on Sunday night. 

"As protests in both the United States and Canada in recent days have focused attention upon racial justice for the black community, the NHL stands with all those who are working to achieve a racially just society, and against all those who perpetuate and uphold racism, hatred, bigotry and violence."

"We share the sentiments expressed by our players and clubs in their calls for justice, and we encourage everyone to use their platforms and privilege for systemic change. In our own sport, we will continue to do better and work diligently toward culture change throughout hockey and endeavor to be mindful of our own shortcomings in this process."

With files from CBC Sports

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