From Michael Jordan to Tom Brady, athletes on all levels have been intentional about making their voices heard in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd; Oklahoma State point guard Cade Cunningham’s reason for speaking out against social injustice was just as simple: “I want things to change.”
“I just feel like we all have to do our part,” Cunningham said. “It’s gonna take everyone. One of the responsibilities that comes with having a platform and a voice is to speak out. I understand that, and I want to do it.”
Floyd, a Black man, died on May 25 after being pinned beneath police officers, one of whom kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, as he was detained. Floyd repeatedly told the officers that he couldn’t breathe. The officer who kneeled, Derek Chauvin, was later fired, arrested and charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; the other three officers—Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao—were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Cunningham has been a household name for at least the past two years; he was named to the SI All-American first team this past season after leading Montverde (Fla.) Academy to a perfect 25-0 record, he’s the top prospect on the Sports Illustrated NBA Draft big board for 2021 and is subsequently the favorite the shake NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s hand first next June.
Despite his status, Cunningham said he’s experienced negative interactions with police officers.
Still, he remains optimistic about the prospects for change.
“I definitely think we’ve been making a super strong push right now,” Cunningham said. “I feel like if we let our foot off the gas, I feel like that would be hurting us. We may never get this close to make a change again. Using my platform, I want to try and make my voice be heard and speak on the problems that are going on today.”