Denver Nuggets rookie Michael Porter Jr. is being skewered online for encouraging members of the public to pray for the Minneapolis police officers involved in the brutal death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died Monday while in their custody.
“As much as you pray for George family, gotta also pray for the police officer(s) who were involved in this evil. As hard as it is, pray for them instead of hate them...Pray that God changes their hearts,” Porter, a Christian, wrote in a now viral tweet Wednesday.
The reactions to the tweet came fast and furious. Some Christian critics said they had prayed enough about racial injustice already and dismissed his comments as tone deaf.
“For 400 years we been talking about ‘pray for em’ nah the time praying over, and I'm Christian but this has nothing to do with religion. It's about right and wrong,” wrote Jerovon Ashford.
“I don’t know who you are but I’m not praying for those police officers. At least they get to go home to their families every got damn day. While George Floyd family has to prepare for his funeral. Hatred in those officers heart is why he’s dead. So spare me, please,” replied one grandmother under the username Nana_50.
Porter responded, “You’re right, hatred is why George is dead, and so many others before him. That hatred is why our hearts are breaking. That hatred is why I pray to a God of love.”
Many critics accused the 21-year-old biracial player, who has a black father and a white mother, of being inexperienced and lacking discernment.
Porter maintained in his response to commenters that his allegiance is to God.
“I have one allegiance, and that’s to the God who loves you and me and George Floyd more than we can possibly imagine. We were meant to live as brothers and sisters, all of us God’s children. So I don’t need to fit into your boxes,” he said.
In the approximately 10-minute video of the encounter, Floyd is shown handcuffed, lying face down, begging for his life and crying for his mother while Officer Derek Chauvin kneels into his neck. Though Floyd repeatedly says he can't breathe, the officer refused to remove his knee. Even after Floyd becomes motionless on the ground, Chauvin continued pressing his knee into his neck for several more minutes as bystanders begged him to have mercy. He was pronounced dead approximately 90 minutes later.
Some came to Porter's defense, including church planting pastor at Athens Church in Kansas City, Missouri, Justin Garrett.
“Justice must be sought. Praying for someone doesn't mean any action is undone. Mike's tweet is unpopular, as you can see from the comments. But remember Dr. King – ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,’” Garrett noted.
Porter’s brother, Coban Porter, who is also an upcoming basketball player, also came to his aid.
“A lot of y’all in the comments got a LOT of HATE in your hearts! The whole reason that there are riots and protests is because we want CHANGE!! In no way is Mike condoning the murder of George Floyd. He’s encouraging us to pray for a change that only God can cause!! -Matthew 5:44,” he tweeted.
In an interview with CBSN Minnesota, Floyd’s fiancée, Courteney Ross, described him as a man of prayer who stood up for people.
“He stood up for people, he was there for people when they were down, he loved people that were thrown away,” Ross said. “We prayed over every meal, we prayed if we were having a hard time, we prayed if we were having a good time.”
She argued that he would not condone fighting fire with fire.
“You can’t fight fire with fire. Everything just burns, and I’ve seen it all day — people hate, they’re hating, they’re hating, they’re mad. And he would not want that. He wouldn’t, he wouldn’t, he wouldn’t. He would give grace — I stand on that today — he would still give grace to those people,” Ross said.
Ross, who noted that Floyd’s mother passed away about a year ago, said she believes his mother’s spirit was with him as he desperately called out to her for help as he died.
In an interview with CNN Thursday, Floyd’s younger brother, Philonise Floyd, said while he personally wants members of the public to protest peacefully for justice, he understands when sometimes they don’t.
"I can't stop people right now because they have pain. They have the same pain that I feel. I want everything to be peaceful but I can't make everybody be peaceful. It's hard," he said.
He called the death of his brother an execution in which he was shown no compassion.
"I watched the video. It was hard but I had to watch the video. As I watched the video, those four officers, they executed my brother," he said. "They showed no empathy, no compassion.
“I grew up with him. That was my oldest brother. I loved him. I'm never going to get my brother back. I wouldn't want this for anybody else. I'm just tired of seeing black people dying."