Anthony Johnson thought “why wait?”
When nationwide protests spread in response to address the issue of racial injustice following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the redshirt-junior for Louisville football didn’t want to sit idly by.
Johnson, a defensive back, led a peaceful protest with teammates, coaches and support staff May 31 at the Walking Bridge in downtown Louisville. Johnson was motivated after a team meeting the previous day that discussed racial injustice, police brutality and inequality.
Johnson thought the timing was appropriate and wanted the student-athletes to be seen as seen as community members, not just football players for Louisville.
“We wanted to go out without our jerseys so that we would be seen, not as UofL athletes, but as regular law-abiding citizens,” Johnson said. “Just go out and have a peaceful protest and promote just positivity and we love each other. There is no hate that should be spread throughout the world. We should love everyone regardless of their skin.”
Louisville’s coaching staff encourages players to use their platform to share their thoughts on public issues. Johnson has tried to be more engaged with the community and encourage positive ideals.
“It’s very important to see us without our jerseys on, just to show that without football and sports that we are regular human beings,” Johnson said. “Despite our athletic abilities, we are able to have regular conversations, we’re educated.”
The 6-foot-1 defensive back had Louisville’s first interception of the season in 2019 and finished the year with 27 tackles. Johnson, who was tied for a team-high with three forced fumbles last season, was one of 30 players to return to campus in Louisville’s phased return.
Although workouts are planned with distancing measures in mind as preventive ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, Johnson says it’s good to be back with teammates.
Players have been able to talk together in-person about issues that have become the national focal point in recent weeks.
“You mix with different guys all across the world, different races, different backgrounds, different religions,” Johnson said. “Just being able to meet with the team and express some of our feelings amongst each other to see how everybody is feeling about the situation, and then to go out and protest, doing something peaceful and positive in the community, it was a really good deal.”
Johnson said shirts are being designed that emphasize equality and the shared bond sports create.