Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Russell said Donald Trump is "divisive and a coward" in a tweet sent Sunday morning in response to the president's comments regarding protesters of police brutality and racial discrimination after the death of George Floyd.
#Trump you projected your narrative that #TakingAKnee is disrespectful & #UnAmerican it was never about that! You are divisive & a coward. It takes true courage 2 stand 4 what is right & risk your life in the midst of a #pandemic #Proud2kneel #BlackLivesMatter @MSNBC @BostonGlobe https://t.co/nhNITHSrxo https://t.co/h0PuUYVFwu
Russell also praised protesters for their bravery in taking to the streets in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has been publicly critical of protesters on several occasions, tweeting, "These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won't let that happen."
He also mentioned he could use military action if needed and added: "Looting leads to shooting, and that's why a man was shot and killed in Minneapolis on Wednesday night - or look at what just happened in Louisville with 7 people shot. I don't want this to happen, and that's what the expression put out last night means...."
After Trump threatened to use the Insurrection Act to deploy military forces Monday, protesters outside the White House were dispersed with riot-control measures (which included, some claim, tear gas).
Some also criticized the president Friday after he said: "Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this a great thing that's happening for our country. There's a great day for him. It's a great day for everybody. It's a great day for everybody. There's a great, great day in terms of equality."
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes last month. Floyd's death was captured on video by a bystander, which showed the 46-year-old repeatedly begging for his life and saying he could not breathe.
Three other officers who were assisting Chauvin with the arrest were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.
Floyd's death has led to nationwide protests for nearly two straight weeks, with citizens calling for police reform aimed at ending discrimination and violence against black people.