Minnesota Twins outfielder Max Kepler has sparked controversy on Thursday night as he wore a “Blue Lives Matter” mask while Minneapolis was set ablaze by protesters demanding justice for George Floyd.
Floyd died on Monday while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department and his death has triggered widespread protests across the country.
Characterized by a black and white American flag with a singular blue stripe in the middle, the “Blue Lives Matter” flag represents the countermovement to the “Black Lives Matter” organization that has championed protests against police brutality.
The use of blue in the flag is believed to be a nod to police forces across the U.S., which predominantly tend to wear blue uniforms.
Kepler, however, insisted he was unaware of the significance of the symbol as he grew up in Germany, where police forces wear green uniforms.
“Didn’t know what the blue line stood for,” he said on Twitter in response to a fan questioning his choice of attire.
“Police is [wears] green in Germany.”
“Earlier, I posted a photo of me in a mask that was sent to me by a company, to wear during the pandemic,” he wrote.
“I had no idea that the mask had any underlying inferences—I simply thought it looked good. After I was informed, I immediately took down the post.
“I take complete responsibility for not knowing what I was wearing. I am truly sorry for the hurt and pain my actions have caused, especially now. Racism has no place in our world and I do not in any way support the actions that we all witnessed that led to George Floyd’s passing. My sympathies are with the Floyd family.”
The Twins did not address Kepler’s actions, but in an official statement they condemned Floyd’s “senseless death” and expressed their condolences to the family.
“We are deeply saddened by the tragic and senseless death of George Floyd on Monday night in Minneapolis,” the franchise said.
“The Minnesota Twins send our deepest sympathies to the Floyd family, and join with our Twin Cities community in mourning.
“We will continue working with our community partners to move forward with courage, free of hate and thoughtful in our path, to create the change we want to see in the world—one, all-inclusive Twins Territory, where everyone is protected, safe and welcome.”
Floyd’s death sparked outrage across the U.S. after several videos emerged of a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for many minutes while making the arrest. In one of the videos, the victim can be heard saying he’s unable to breathe, before seemingly losing consciousness.
On Thursday nights, protesters demanding justice for Floyd took to the streets in numerous cities across the U.S., including Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, Oakland and New York.
In Minneapolis, police officers were forced to flee the 3rd Precinct Station after crowds entered the premises and set the entrance on fire, while elsewhere businesses in the city were looted and there were reports of numerous blazes being set.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz declared a state of emergency and the Minnesota National Guard sent 500 soldiers to St Paul, Minneapolis and surrounding areas.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump threatened to send in the National Guard to restore order and criticized Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey for a “very weak” response in dealing with the protesters, whom he described as “thugs.”
From LeBron James to Odell Beckham Jr. and from Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr to Houston Texans star J.J. Watt and Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Lawrence, the world of sports has been united in speaking out against Floyd’s death.
“[I’m] done being quiet and [I’m] done being angry,” Lawrence tweeted. “How can we feel safe when those meant to protect us are killing us? When will minorities be free to be Americans in America?”
The latter first knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial discrimination in 2016. The gesture transformed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback into a global icon, but split public opinion in the U.S. and contributed to him being ostracized by the league.
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