Athletes across multiple sports expressed frustration about Wednesday’s grand jury decision in Kentucky not to move forward with charges against any officers for their roles in the death of Breonna Taylor.
A grand jury in Louisville indicted one police officer for shooting into neighboring apartments. Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment in connection to the police raid that resulted in the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, on the night of March 13.
Neither the grand jury nor the presiding judge elaborated on the charges. Bond was set at $15,000 for Hankison.
The FBI is still investigating potential violations of federal law in the case.
Attorney Ben Crump, who is representing Taylor’s family, tweeted that the charges involved “NOTHING for the murder of Breonna Taylor. This is outrageous and offensive!”
The WNBA dedicated its season to Taylor and the Say Her Name movement, an initiative committed to saying the names and fighting for justice for Black women. Before the opening game of the WNBA season in July, the New York Liberty and Seattle Storm held a 26-second moment of silence. Taylor’s name is on the back of WNBA jerseys and has been inked on shoes in both the WNBA and NBA. Several players have worn warm-up shirts with messages on them such as “Say Her Name.”
“Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said in a statement. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her. Our players and I once again extend our deepest sympathies to her family and we vow to continue working in her honor and to always say her name.”
After a $12 million civil settlement was reached between Taylor’s estate and the city of Louisville last week, WNBA players again pushed for the officers’ arrest.
“This is why police need to be defunded and ultimately abolished!” Liberty player Layshia Clarendon posted on Twitter. “We time and time again hope for a sliver of justice but why would we get that when the system is designed to protect the very folks that are murdering and terrorizing us. This isn’t a bad apple, it’s a rotten tree.”
Disappointed & disgusted. My heart goes out to Ms Tamika Palmer & the rest of Breonna’s family #JusticeforBreonnaTalyor
Please vote! Everyone!
— Sue Bird (@S10Bird) September 23, 2020
Not surprised just disappointed . We’re sorry Breonna 💔
— Isabelle Harrison (@OMG_itsizzyb) September 23, 2020
Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker said of the grand jury’s decision, “Don’t feel as though justice was served.”
“We were in the bubble still when the $12 million [settlement] was handed out and we still remain with [the thought] that justice would not be served until the officers were arrested and charged with murder,” she said. “And I’ll say it again: I think when you become a mom, you kind of look at things from a different scope. And I can’t even imagine her family.
“I am honestly disappointed, and I think if anybody questioned why we wear the shirt, why we’re demanding change, and why we’re telling people to vote is because it’s not just about [charges], it’s about the blatant, systemic racism that happens within our country and has happened for centuries. You kind of hope, but in the back of your mind yesterday, I think everybody kind of knew what was going to happen. And it’s just disappointing.”
NFL players were allowed to wear a helmet decal with Taylor’s name during season openers.
“If it was my sister or my mom or my dad — or, if I have kids one day, any of my kids — I’d be pissed off. Very pissed off,” Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins said Wednesday. “… The biggest thing with that case is understanding that life isn’t fair. We have to understand you don’t always get the things you want. It’s really disappointing because justice should be served for her death, Breonna Taylor and this movement in general, this Black Lives Matter, and understanding the neglect of not only Black people but people of color in general.
“The injustices, police brutality and systemic racism and everything of that nature, it’s bigger than just sports or politics or the color of your skin. It’s how you treat people. I was always taught growing up from my mom and my dad, you treat people how you want to be treated. If I treat people how they’ve been treated, then no one respects that, and I wouldn’t be where I am today. … We have to do better as a country and as a people.”
NBA players have dedicated their postgame interviews to Taylor, and Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James said in July that he wanted the officers “who committed that crime” to be arrested. James took to social media Wednesday night in the wake of the Taylor news, saying in part that he wasn’t surprised by what happened.
“It’s just so demoralizing. It’s so discouraging. I just keep thinking about the generation of American kids, of any color, is this the way we want to raise them? Is this the country we want to live in?” Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of Wednesday’s news. “There’s just so much violence. There’s so much shooting. It comes in so many forms, whether it’s school shootings or vigilantism or police brutality, neighbor to neighbor. There’s just so much violence, and it’s demoralizing when we can’t be accountable or hold anyone to account for it.
“The really demoralizing thing is we have a really powerful movement that’s happening. We have so many people who care about this country and so many people who want change and believe in equal justice for Black and brown communities, and yet we don’t have it. It’s such a tough hill to climb, but this long history of racism that we have in our country continues. And it continues in the form of this kind of violence, state-sanctioned violence, over and over again that we’re seeing. And it’s devastating.”
The cops that murdered Breonna Taylor knew this is how it would play out from the moment it happened. They were never worried about justice being served.
— 🏁 Jamal Crawford (@JCrossover) September 23, 2020
I lived in the VILLE for three years of my life and it became another home to me, but wow what’s happen? These are the charges you actually come up with? 😔🤦🏿♂️ Nothing to say but WOW SPEECHLESS!
— Montrezl Harrell (@MONSTATREZZ) September 23, 2020
I don’t have many words right now…. but all I can say is I’m praying for the city of Louisville right now!!! 😔😔
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) September 23, 2020
Other NBA and NFL players took to social media to react to the grand jury news.
“The cops that murdered Breonna Taylor knew this is how it would play out from the moment it happened,” Brooklyn Nets guard Jamal Crawford posted on Twitter. “They were never worried about justice being served.”
“Breonna Taylor’s killers getting off scot free without even a trial is exactly the systemic rot that people are protesting for,” Los Angeles Chargers running back Justin Jackson posted on Twitter. “All those protests, all the outcry for justice, and can’t even get a trial. Angry doesn’t even come close to how im feeling. #BreonnaTaylor.”
“Just crazy,” Watson said. “… And I’ll just speak more about that with my teammates and the people like that because right now this is definitely a football interview. But, yeah, it was just something that … it’s just crazy, honestly.”
Breonna Taylor’s killers getting off scot free without even a trial is exactly the systemic rot that people are protesting for. All those protests, all the outcry for justice, and can’t even get a trial. Angry doesn’t even come close to how im feeling. #BreonnaTaylor
— Justin Jackson (@J_ManPrime21) September 23, 2020
Wow…can’t even say I’m surprised on how they ruled the Breonna Taylor case…😓
— Davontae Harris (@wichkid) September 23, 2020
At a news conference Wednesday, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said Hankison and the two other officers who entered Taylor’s apartment announced themselves before entering and did not use a no-knock warrant.
“According to Kentucky law, the use of force by Officers [Jonathan] Mattingly and [Myles] Cosgrove was justified to protect themselves,” Cameron said. “This justification bars us from pursuing criminal charges in Miss Breonna Taylor’s death.”
Protesters have consistently pressured the attorney general to act, and celebrities and pro athletes joined them in calling on the attorney general to charge the police who shot Taylor. At one point, demonstrators, including Texans receiver Kenny Stills, converged on his house and were charged with felonies for trying to intimidate the prosecutor. Those charges were later dropped.
After the grand jury’s decision broke Wednesday afternoon, demonstrators who spent months calling for justice for Taylor resumed their protests, rallying in such U.S. cities as New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Streets in downtown Louisville were cleared of cars and many businesses were boarded up well ahead of the announcement. As the afternoon wore on, police in protective gear approached the growing number of protesters in some areas and used batons to push some of them down. A few small fires burned in a square that has been at the center of protests, but it had largely cleared out ahead of a nighttime curfew and demonstrators marched through other parts of downtown Louisville. Officers detained at least four people, who sat on the ground with their wrists bound behind them.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was killed at approximately 12:40 a.m. on March 13 after police served a search warrant on her apartment for a narcotics investigation. Taylor was not the target of the investigation and had no criminal record.
Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, opened fire when police burst in, and his shot hit Mattingly. Walker later said he was afraid that assailants were breaking in. Three officers responded with multiple shots, with six hitting and killing Taylor in her hallway.
Hankison was fired, and Mattingly and Cosgrove were assigned to administrative duties. Joshua Jaynes, the detective who sought the warrant, was reassigned. The police contend that they announced their presence before breaking in.
“The decision before my office as the special prosecutor in this case was not to decide if the loss of Ms. Taylor’s life was a tragedy,” Cameron said. “The answer to that is unequivocally yes.
“I understand that Breonna Taylor’s death is part of a national story, but the facts and evidence in this case are different than others [involving police shootings]. If we simply act on emotion or outrage, there is no justice. Mob justice is not justice. Justice sought by violence is not justice. It just becomes revenge.”
Haskins said he wanted to give himself a day to reflect on the grand jury decision and figure out what he and his teammates will do.
“People are dying every day, and it’s very important for us, but we want to come to an actual change and figure out ways to resonate with people in the community,” Haskins said. “People are looking at us and want our opinion and our perspective. We want to actually have something worth doing, not just doing it because it’s easy to do.
“We want to do the best we can as the Washington Football Team to bring change throughout the country. It’s just tough because you don’t want anyone to die, and you don’t want anyone to be killed, for that matter. And to be killed and not to have any justice be served is extremely disappointing. … I can’t be insensitive toward this because I have family and friends who have been through this before. I’ve been through things like this before. It’s tough. It’s hard to deal with.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.