Gators react to racial injustice, pro league boycotts: 'We're target practice to these cops'

By Graham Hall
Special to

The police shooting in Kenosha, Wisconsin, of 29-year-old Jacob Blake has reignited the conversation of Black people and police brutality, and Florida football players were among those sharing their thoughts on social media.

Florida redshirt junior defensive lineman Zachary Carter has taken a more prominent vocal role during both the COVID-19 pandemic and the George Floyd protests, and he didn’t shy away Thursday morning from sharing a strong sentiment.

“We’re target practice to these cops,” Carter wrote on his Twitter account. “They have no remorse or no’s heartbreaking.”

Former Gators and current New York Jets running back La’Mical Perine echoed Carter’s sentiments, saying “without a helmet, I’m a target” on his Twitter account.

Florida coach Dan Mullen said Thursday the Gators talked about the police shooting of Blake earlier: "There's a lot of ignorance in the world ... one of the best things we can try and do is educate ignorant people."

Mullen said he encourages his players to speak out and to use their platform.

"In the role we're in, we can help people better understand things. We can help people try and become educated about other people."

Mullen said there was no talk of  not practicing today.

"Our guys love football ... but I think they are very conscious of using their platform to do it," Mullen said. "We had a great discussion about it after practice today, and I think we'll have more."

"It's one thing to make a statement. But how do you make change? That's one of the things everyone's working on."

After an anonymous Twitter user told Gators defensive back Marco Wilson that they believed the redshirt junior “had it made” and “was not oppressed,” Wilson quoted the comment, replying “’re a clown, go read and educate yourself.” Wilson earlier had shown disgust at social media comments replying to a post from the Notre Dame football team’s account expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The Fort Lauderdale native also shared messages Thursday regarding the graphic video of 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse and the resulting inaction taken against a minor with a semi-automatic rifle, along with a message calling out people prioritizing a football season over social change.

Gators wide receiver Kadarius Toney posted on his Twitter account the message, “We gone be at war before it’s all ova” followed by the Black Lives Matter hashtag. Fellow wide receiver Trevon Grimes shared the same hashtag alongside a tweet that read “Scary world to live in today.”

Following the abrupt decision of NBA players to strike Wednesday’s playoff games, numerous former players turned TV personalities, including Chris Webber and Kenny Smith, shared views on how it feels to be Black in America. Webber’s message, among many topics, also looked to inspire younger generations to continue acting –- a message which UF safeties coach Ron English shared on his Twitter account with the caption “The. Sad. Truth.”

The NBA players decided Thursday to continue the playoffs in the Orlando bubble. With many NFL teams focusing on social change Thursday rather than or prior to practicing, the conversation isn’t dissipating anytime soon.