Weston McKennie says he will continue to pay tribute to George Floyd and other victims of police brutality against black people after showing his support by writing on his captain's armband over the weekend.
Floyd was killed by white police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on his neck for several minutes amid Floyd's pleas for help.
Chauvin has since been arrested and charged with third-degree murder, but the latest incident of police brutality has sparked protests all over the world.
Minneapolis, where the incident occurred, has been the site of protests that have at times turned violent, while virtually every major city across the U.S. has seen some form of protest in the wake of Floyd's killing.
Over the weekend, several Bundesliga stars showed their support for the ongoing protest, with Marcus Thuram kneeling after scoring a goal while Borussia Dortmund duo Jadon Sancho and Achraf Hakimi unveiled shirts paying tribute to Floyd.
McKennie, a regular for the U.S. men's national team, wrote "Justice for George Floyd" on his captain's armband in Schalke's 1-0 loss to Werder Bremen, and he says that his support won't stop there.
“I felt like it was my responsibility and my duty, especially being American, and with the situation going on in America,” McKennie told Forbes.
“And I felt like it was the best and biggest platform that I could use to spread awareness. Of course, maybe some people don’t agree with it, but that’s their opinion and for me, I felt like it was my duty and my responsibility to go out to show justice for George Floyd. This is a problem that’s been going on way too long.
“We're the only league that's playing right now, all eyes are on the Bundesliga. So I felt like there's no better way and no better time than now."
He added: “I wouldn’t even say that it was surprising, but it definitely was sickening. When a man of that age cries out for his mother, his dead mother, he's essentially crying out ‘please help me’. He knows that he's not going to make it out. It's hard to watch.
“Many of my teammates here saw it and are also disgusted. It's something that touches you in a different way. It's too much and it needs to be brought to attention. It needs to stop.
“There are too many social injustices and too many police brutality incidences where they say ‘it's an accident’. An accident happens once or twice, but when it's happened so many times like it has now, it can't be overlooked anymore.”
McKennie says he has experienced racism in his own life, with the midfielder revealing that, during a cup match against a lower league team, he was subjected to monkey gestures and noises at from the home fans, who also called him an “ape”.
He also revealed that his brother once encountered a racist barbershop, who told him that ‘we don't cut n***** hair here’.
McKennie also added that he did not speak to the club before donning the armband, admitting that he should have, while the American star added that he was asked by the referee to remove the armband during the match.
“I was like, ‘I’m not taking it off’. There’s a rule in the league that you can't make political statements. But I mean, if you really, really look at this as a political statement, then I don't know what to tell you,” McKennie said.
“The league and everyone (in soccer) always preaches ‘say no to racism’. So I didn't think that there would be a problem. If I have to take the consequences to express my opinion, to express my feelings, to stand up for what I believe in, then that's something that I have to do.”
McKennie says that he understands that he may face criticism for his message, and he's willing to accept that criticism as he plans on continuing to speak out.
“My message for those people is that, yeah, we’re athletes, but we’re humans first,” he said.
“I know that I will continue to pay tribute to George Floyd in some way and not just him, but for the many senseless deaths that have happened in these situations.
“I believe that athletes have one of the biggest platforms to influence and if their followers don’t like what they believe in, they don’t have to follow them. If they don't like what they believe in, they don't have to support them. But I shouldn't have to change what I believe in and what my opinion is, based on the people that follow me. It doesn't work like that.”