'Justice served' - Sports world reacts after guilty verdict in US murder case that sparked protests, activism

By Sports Desk April 20, 2021

Athletes expressed relief and vowed to continue the fight for reforms after a jury in Minnesota found a former police officer guilty in the May 2020 death of George Floyd. 

Derek Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Tuesday, nearly 11 months after he knelt on Floyd's neck and back for more than nine minutes during an arrest. 

Floyd's death aged 46 sparked outrage across the United States, with athletes across multiple sports among those who called for justice. 

Tuesday's verdict in Minneapolis provided a measure of progress and sports figures, teams and leagues spoke out after the ruling. 

Basketball star LeBron James' reaction was among the most succinct as he tweeted simply: "ACCOUNTABILITY".

Boxing legend Mike Tyson tweeted: "Guilty. Justice served."

While similiar expressions of relief were common, most continued to lament the crime that sparked the case. 

"George Floyd lost his life, as many others have, unjustly. We can't forget that - that people are losing their lives," Brooklyn Nets head coach Steve Nash told reporters.

"On the other hand, it is a small gesture of justice and possibly hope for the future in that perhaps all the social justice movements - the NBA, the WNBA, the community at large - are really making an impact.

"I just hope that this is the type of statement by our justice system that gives hope and precedence for these type of verdicts to be the norm."

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    Phoenix Suns star and former number one draft pick Deandre Ayton was among a number of players who did not sign rookie contract extensions before the deadline.

    Monday was the deadline for the 2018 draft class to pen new deals with their respective teams in the NBA.

    Malcolm Brogdon of the Indiana Pacers (two-year, $45million), Memphis Grizzlies star Jaren Jackson Jr. (four year, $105m), Kevin Huerter of the Atlanta Hawks (four-year, $65m), Suns guard Landry Shamet (four-year, $43m) and the Milwaukee Bucks' Grayson Allen (two-year, $20m) all extended their contracts.

    However, there were some notable names missing, including Ayton – who can enter restricted free agency next year, according to ESPN and Adrian Wojnarowski.

    Ayton played a key role in Phoenix's run to the NBA Finals last season, however, the Suns did not come to the table as the 23-year-old center eyed a five-year max contract.

    In 2020-21, Ayton averaged 14.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game, while he boasted a career-best 62.6 field-goal percentage and career-high 76.9 percentage from the free-throw line.

    Ayton's numbers elevated in his first playoff campaign – 15.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game, though his future in Phoenix is now uncertain.

    Cleveland Cavaliers star Collin Sexton also failed to reach a contract extension agreement with the Eastern Conference strugglers.

    Sexton did not land a new deal, despite career highs in points (24.3), assists (4.4), rebounds (3.1) and field-goal percentage (47.5).

    The other players without contract extensions are Miles Brides of the Charlotte Hornets, the Orlando Magic's Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley III of the Sacramento Kings and New York Knicks forward Kevin Knox.

  • 76ers coach Rivers still unsure if Simmons will play season opener 76ers coach Rivers still unsure if Simmons will play season opener

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    Simmons demanded a trade amid criticism following last season's playoff exit to the Atlanta Hawks and was absent from Philadelphia for the first two weeks of preseason work before showing up on October 11 to begin fulfilling COVID-19 protocols that would allow him to re-join the championship-chasing franchise.

    As the 76ers – who claimed the Eastern Conference top seed in 2020-21 – gear up for the new season, Rivers was again asked about Simmons' availability.

    "I have no idea," Rivers told reporters after Simmons participated in practice on Monday. "Honestly, I haven't even thought about it much.

    "When it comes, I'll make the decision. But I'm just going to wait and see and watch. The spirit has been so good, and so we’re just going to keep going."

    "Just learning the new stuff, conditioning, timing, rhythm," Rivers said.

    "We've been together for three weeks, so we've established a good rhythm. So the more he's been in, the more he does, especially when we're working on our offensive stuff earlier, because we've built from last year but we tweaked a lot of stuff. But it's easy to pick up, especially for him."

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    There has never been much room on the 'America's Team' bandwagon.

    Each NFL season seems to begin with scores of pundits and observers scrambling to find a reason why this could be the Dallas Cowboys' year.

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    Not since their Super Bowl win at the end of the 1995 season have the Cowboys reached the NFC Championship Game.

    But riding a five-game winning streak after a thrilling 35-29 overtime victory over the New England Patriots in Foxborough, there is no doubt the Cowboys are legitimate contenders.

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    It marked his 39th game with a passer rating of at least 100, surpassing Philip Rivers (38) for the third-most such games by a player in his first 75 starts.

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    Should he continue performing at the standards he has displayed through five weeks, a Prescott vs Rodgers conference title game is not out of the question.

    Accurate in every situation

    Returning from a compound fracture and dislocation of his right ankle suffered in Week 5 last year and entering the season with concerns over a shoulder injury, there were plenty wondering whether Prescott could recapture the form that saw him receive a four-year, $160million contract extension from Dallas in the offseason.

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    Helming a Dallas offense that leads the NFL with an average of 6.58 yards per play, Prescott is second in the NFL with a completion percentage of 73.1, while he and Matthew Stafford are tied for the league lead in throws that have resulted in a first down, moving the sticks on 44 per cent of attempts.

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    His well-thrown percentage under pressure is 77.1 per cent, the average being 70, with only Murray (78.1) and the Patriots' Mac Jones (81.4) above him among quarterbacks to have come under duress on at least 20 attempts. 

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    The former fourth-round pick's composure under pressure and ability to deliver on the move shone through in the biggest moments at Gillette Stadium.

    On second-and-11 early in the fourth quarter, Prescott connected with CeeDee Lamb for 33 yards having shuffled to his right and reset his feet before delivering with late-arriving pressure in his face.

    The final drive of regulation for Dallas saw Prescott put the ball where only Cedrick Wilson Jr. could go up and get it on a critical fourth-and-five with Matthew Judon bearing down on him following a spin move on right tackle Terence Steele.

    His first throw of overtime was another hookup with Lamb while rolling to his right and that drive culminated in Prescott finding the same receiver after executing a play-fake left and moving the opposite direction, hitting the second-year receiver on the over route on a throw delivered with his weight falling away to give Dallas a walk-off win.

    It could be argued that the Cowboys' own miscues put themselves in such a tight game, and his own coach is perhaps Prescott's most significant obstacle to him delivering long-awaited glory to Dallas this season.

    McCarthy's mistakes

    The Cowboys will be glad of the upcoming bye week, having seemingly survived a scare when left tackle Tyron Smith limped off with an ankle injury on Sunday, only to return after having it taped.

    Smith will have the chance to rest and nurse his ankle and a troublesome neck problem, and by the time the Cowboys are back in action they should have the entirety of their starting offensive line, with right tackle La'el Collins set to return from a five-game ban.

    Dallas and head coach Mike McCarthy could also use the extra week to evaluate in-game decision-making, which made life a lot harder on Prescott in Week 6.

    Whether it was the decision to call four successive runs from the New England one-yard line in the second quarter, a sequence that ended with Prescott fumbling at the goal-line, or McCarthy's call to settle for a go-ahead 51-yard field goal on fourth-and-two late in the final quarter, the Cowboys' game management was a problem throughout.

    McCarthy was bailed out after the latter mistake, Greg Zuerlein's missed kick followed by a pick-six of Jones from Trevon Diggs, but the Cowboys cannot expect to get away with such misjudgements every week.

    The Cowboys have an offense teeming with playmakers that is the most efficient in the league by yards per play and a defense second in takeaways with 14, Diggs (seven interceptions) accounting for half of those.

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    Prescott has the Cowboys firmly on the path to the title push they have long since craved. It is the man they hired to lead that charge who is the biggest threat to their dreams coming to fruition.

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