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Knicks, players post blackout image on Instagram in response to George Floyd's death

Julius Randle of the Knicks controls the ball

Julius Randle of the Knicks controls the ball in the first half against the Pistons at Madison Square Garden on March 8. Credit: Jim McIsaac

After receiving criticism inside and outside the organization when the Knicks were one of just two NBA franchises not to make a statement on the killing of George Floyd, the team joined the rest of the league in posting a blackout image on the team Instagram account.

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The decision to remain silent Tuesday also prompted some employees to meet to discuss the reaction of the organization. It was in response to that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan sent out an internal email attempting to explain the decision.

"Yesterday, I made a sincere attempt to provide my perspective on a very difficult issue, one that has no easy answers," Dolan said in the email, which was obtained by SNY and confirmed by a source. "I know how important this topic is to so many, and I do not want there to be any confusion about where I as an individual, or we as a company stand. So let me be clear: We vehemently condemn and reject racism against anyone, period. It is against every value that we hold dear.

"My point yesterday was about actions, and the importance of living your values. At Madison Square Garden, we have worked hard to build an environment of inclusion and mutual respect and those are the values that we try to live every day. Racism is born of ignorance and it’s up to each of us to understand that the person working beside you is your equal without regard to color, or any of the other qualities that make us diverse. And any injustice to one person is an injustice to everyone.
"This is how we at MSG fight racism. We start with ourselves, and through our actions, we define who we are. That is how we can be an example to the wider world. That was the point of my message yesterday.
"I am proud of the environment you have created here. I know that this is a difficult time, and that we will always need to communicate with one another on the hard issues. I will continue to do as much as I can to help make our community even better. I know you will also."

It was not just the team as a franchise, posting the black screen image on Instagram — nearly the entire roster put it on their individual accounts including Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Damyean Dotson, Frank Ntilikina, Taj Gibson and Kevin Knox.

Criticism still rang out against the franchise. Former player Kendrick Perkins, appearing on ESPN, said, “The New York Knicks are the weakest link in the NBA. They don’t represent what the NBA is all about. The NBA is not all about basketball. The NBA represents brotherhood. The NBA represents leadership. And guess what, James Dolan and the New York Knicks lack in both of those categories.”

ESPN reported that Kyrie Irving was at a protest march Tuesday. Many NBA players have taken part, including Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. One of the most active franchises has been the Boston Celtics with Jaylen Brown helping lead a protest in Atlanta over the weekend and Enes Kanter speaking at a protest in Boston Sunday.

“I think the thing that I wanted them to know is that every decent person is hurting,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said in a conference call with reporters Tuesday. “Every decent person feels the pain of the African American community. But I also don’t want to pretend like I know the exact, distinct pain. So what I wanted them to know is that I’m with them.”

The Indiana Pacers sent out a statement from head coach Nate McMillan Tuesday in which he took a strong stance on the death of Floyd and the chaos that has ensued.

“The recent killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, is nothing shy of inexcusable and my whole heart feels for his family in their difficult time of grief,” McMillan wrote. “Unfortunately, this pain is far too common for the black community in America, the place we claim to be so great. Enough is enough.

“What is so Great about oppression, pain, and suffering? What is so Great about hatred, violence, and racism? For as long as I can remember, the black community has had to piece itself back together time and time again through the agony of injustice. There is no place for racism. Violence is not the answer. It’s time for everyone to take a look in the mirror and take action to remove the divisive stigma that lingers over the nation. …

"We need leadership that is for all people. We need leadership who will listen. We need leadership that cares. We need leadership that is inclusive. We need leadership with a heart. For far too long the racism and flaws of the system have been ignored. In order for America to reach the status of great, we all must be better. We have to do our part to lift each other up. We must change our hearts. We must change our laws. We must create a systemic change. I encourage you to be the change you want to see. Let’s make a new America our home and a place we can ALL be proud of.”

While teams in other leagues were not as united as in the NBA in speaking out, the New York Giants did weigh in with a statement Tuesday.

"George Floyd's senseless death is the type of tragedy we have seen too often for far too long,” they said in the statement. “Over the past week, our players and coaches have talked about the hurt, the pain, the frustration and the anger. Each of us is feeling some or all of that," the team wrote in a statement. "We continue to talk about what we can do to help unite and heal and, more importantly, create real opportunity and meaningful change. We have a responsibility as citizens to work in a constructive way. What we do to make a difference is what is most important. We have the ability to advocate for social justice and sustained change.

"We know that to make lasting change, it needs to start at the community level. That is why we are committed to continuing to strengthen the alliances we have with groups like the Vera Institute of Justice, the Newark Bronze Shields, The Bronx Defenders, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, RISE and our local law enforcement agencies to understand and support each group's good work. We will continue to expand our relationships where we can have a meaningful, positive impact and make a difference.”

Jets’ running back Le’Veon Bell tweeted Tuesday, “I’ve held on to my words because I still haven’t been able to find the right thing to say...I’m hurt, WE are hurt, AMERICA is hurting, and I can’t even find words to express to you how bad I feel...RIP George Floyd.”

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