Cullen Jones, Lia Neal, and Other Swimmers Speak Out amid National Protests

Following public statements from Simone Manuel, Natalie Hinds, and Katie Ledecky, a second wave of professional swimmers are lending their voices to the public call for change in the wake of the killing of 46-year-old unarmed man George Floyd last week.

The killing is the latest in a growing list of black men, arrested for minor crimes, who have died while in police custody.

Floyd was arrested last Monday after he allegedly used a counterfeit bill at a convenience store, and died as officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck while at three others were present. Bystander video of the scene went viral, and the killing has set off protests demanding action in cities around the country over the last week.

All officers who were present have been fired from the Minneapolis Police Department, and Chauvin has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

In a lengthy Instagram post, Olympian Cullen Jones said he “cannot be quiet anymore.”

“I have loved this country from the day I learned the star spangled banner, to the day I was blessed enough to stand atop the Olympic podium to recite it before the world. But enough is enough. For years I have kept my personal thoughts and convictions to myself. I must stand for what I believe in. As a Black man in America, I have dealt with my share of harassment. As a swimmer, I have always prided myself on breaking stereotypes and being a role model for others to do the same. But I cannot be quiet anymore.

As a new father, I am continually thinking about how to raise my Indian/Black son, in this America. I don’t want him to have to fear the people who are meant to protect. I don’t want to have to teach him that it is his duty to linguistically disarm those same people by being calm and following directions so that the person with the gun feels more comfortable. Just because of the color of his skin.
For all creeds, religions, and backgrounds protesting, the hurt is real. But the way we achieve justice is yes action, but through peace, communication and most important, at the polls. I pray for the families who have lost loved ones at the hands of racism. Enough is enough we need to do better for the next generation.”

Jones, 36, and wife Rupi welcome their son, Ayvn, in July 2019.

In a 13-minute video posted to her YouTube channel early Sunday, Oympian Lia Neal took a slightly different approach, addressing the multitude of issues her viewers might be dealing with. In the video, she discusses the power of social media, her mental health state, and some recommendations for coping.

“When you look at today’s day and age, it doesn’t seem that different from how things were 70 years ago. None of this stuff has ever gone away before, but now it’s being brought to light and more people are being exposed to these kinds of uncomfortable things – uncomfortable news, uncomfortable happenings. Because they need to be, I need to be, we all need to be in order to actually do something about it,” Neal says. “That being said, it does come at a cost, though, because it’s just so much negative stimuli all at once.”

Georgia-based pro Olivia Smoliga also took to Instagram to express her thoughts, specifically calling on the swimming community to recognize the influence black swimmers have had.

“I’ve been trying to find the right words to say so I’ll just say this: we all lose when one of us loses, that’s what it should feel like. All the repetitive hatred and racial injustice that I see, the anguish our black friends, brothers sisters family feel, should be felt through all of us as we fight for change. We are so quick to look the other way, say it isn’t our problem, focus on all that’s ahead of us on our own path, but it’s up to all of us to speak up and stand for nothing less than justice and love. Because as Americans, as human beings, we should all be in this together. You can make a difference no matter how small. You can start by treating others the way you’d like to be treated. You can educate/donate/check on your black friends.

I hope we swimmers all recognize that some of, if not the most influential swimmers of our generations have been black. Paving the way for others despite obvious barriers. Inspiring all of us to never give up in the face of adversity. Let us stand in solidarity with our friends, with justice. #blacklivesmatter.”

Fellow Georgia pro Hali Flickinger similarly posted, saying “Change must be done now.”

“I am angry, I am sad, I am frustrated that we still live in a world where the words “us” and “we” still do not truly have a unified meaning. I wait for a time when these words truly mean and include all human beings no matter the color of skin, but there is no waiting. Change must be done now. I understand that I will never understand. However, I stand. I am determined to be educated. I’m determined to speak out on the injustice and racism that continues to occur in our country. This has to stop and we must be better. I hear you and I’m here for you. #blacklivesmatter.”

Olympian Kelsi Dahlia also chimed in on Sunday, tweeting in part, “I now understand that I don’t understand,” echoing Flickinger’s sentiment.


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2 years ago

We need to add the voices of Nia, Cullen, Simone, and others to our national dialogue.

2 years ago

SwimSwam community is full of commies

Reply to  Swimguy353
2 years ago

Nah, not commies. Just anti fascists.

Reply to  PsychoDad
2 years ago

Now a Terrorist Organization, so watch what you s – a – y.

Reply to  MarkB
2 years ago

I don’t know anything about them – Antifascism is in my DNA. My grandpa was in Nazi camps in Germany and my uncle fought Nazis as partisan. We should all be antifascists, I assume.

2 years ago

I agree, peaceful protests and vote for change. Look at the states where these violent protests are breaking out and vote the opposite in November. Some of these Governors, Mayors, etc. are just letting this play out and ignoring their duty to serve and protect.

2 years ago

Lol if you think voting for change will solve this. In case you didn’t notice, Minneapolis is a Democrat city. You think they should just vote for Republicans in November and that will help? Both parties are guilty of doing nothing but paying some lip service to the police murders, crimes, and brutality.

Reply to  Bossanova
2 years ago

California has had democratic party super majority for a while now. At some point they have to own up to being the responsible party on this. Lets see them break apart police unions.

Reply to  Bossanova
2 years ago

I, for one, can’t wait until swimming resumes and we can disagree on who’s going to win the 100 free in Tokyo again. Not the biggest fan of the political discussions on this site.

I do realize the important intersection sports and politics have, but for it just to be constant is a bit exhausting. I miss swimming

Sarah Coulter
Reply to  PVSFree
2 years ago

You know what’s probably exhausting? Being Black in America. I’m so sorry you feel oppressed by articles reporting on racism and police brutality.

2 years ago

Give me a break.

The Mpls police department has a long, long history of racial discrimination and violence towards African-Americans. Everybody who lives here knows this. Bob Kroll, the “white power” jacket wearing head of the Mpls police union who continued offering “killology” training to Mpls police officers after the city banned its use is an ardent Trump supporter. He even spoke at a Trump rally last year.

The Kraken
2 years ago

Just here waiting for the same racist comments on the last post about this topic to make their way over here.

Reply to  The Kraken
2 years ago

Right? These courageous, thoughtful young athletes’ voices give me hope all is not lost. Hooray to them all for speaking up.

Jason Zajonc
Reply to  Joejoe
2 years ago

Amazing people. Thanks for sharing and I agree 100%. We have to all work together to end this. Peace.

Reply to  The Kraken
2 years ago

These days anyone who tries to engage in an intelligent conversation will just be called a racist. That is why Im not optimistic about the future.

Reply to  SRS
2 years ago

Unfortunately, your opinion is further reinforced by all the downvotes 😥

About Torrey Hart

Torrey Hart

Torrey is from Oakland, CA, and majored in media studies and American studies at Claremont McKenna College, where she swam distance freestyle for the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps team. Outside of SwimSwam, she has bylines at Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, SB Nation, and The Student Life newspaper.

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