LOS ANGELES (AFP) - NBA icon Michael Jordan decried "ingrained racism" in America Sunday as the sports world's reaction to the death of unarmed black man George Floyd leapt leagues and continents.
"I am deeply saddened, truly pained and plain angry," Jordan said in a statement Sunday, as protests over Floyd's death on May 25 spawned violence and looting. "I stand with those who are calling out the ingrained racism and violence toward people of color in our country.
"We have had enough," said Jordan, who was famously reluctant to comment on social issues during his playing career.
Floyd died on May 25 after a white policeman in Minneapolis had held his knee on the handcuffed man's neck for several minutes.
"We need to continue peaceful expressions against injustice and demand accountability," Jordan said.
Jordan joined a chorus of voices from the NBA, NFL and other US sports demanding change for black Americans, but the demands weren't limited to the United States.
French footballer Marcus Thuram and England international Jadon Sancho called for justice for Floyd after scoring in Germany's Bundesliga.
Thuram took a knee after scoring for Borussia Moenchengladbach in a match against Union Berlin, while Sancho marked one of his three goals for Borussia Dortmund against Paderborn by lifting his jersey to reveal a T-shirt bearing the words "Justice for George Floyd."
Thuram's gesture echoed the protest of US racism spearheaded by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose decision to kneel during the national anthem at games in 2016 sparked outrage.
The gesture has now been heartbreakingly compared to the death of Floyd, who pleaded that he couldn't breathe as Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin kept his knee on his neck.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sent an internal memo to NBA employees on Sunday that said the league shares "the outrage" that has followed the death of Floyd -- which comes in the wake of the police killing in Kentucky of emergency health worker Breonna Taylor in her home, and the fatal shooting of unarmed black jogger Ahmaud Arbery.
Commissioner Adam Silver sent an internal memo to NBA office employees Sunday, offering thoughts of frustration and sadness after watching the protests around the country over the weekend.
"We are being reminded that there are wounds in our country that have never healed," Silver said in the memo, which was obtained and published by Yahoo.
"Racism, police brutality and racial injustice remain part of everyday life in America and cannot be ignored."
With US pro sports on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic, American athletes had no chance to demonstrate on the field of play.
Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown and Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris were among a number of NBA players who took part in demonstrations over the weekend.
Brown drove 15 hours to lead a peaceful protest march in Atlanta, Georgia.
"First and foremost, I'm a black man and I'm a member of this community," the Georgia native said.
Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers, himself the son of a policeman, said that as violence escalated it was imperative to keep Floyd's death at the forefront.
"The response we are seeing across the nation, to the murder of George Floyd, is decades in the making," Rivers said in a statement. "Too often, people rush to judge the response, instead of the actions that prompted it.
"We have allowed too many tragedies to pass in vain. This isn't an African-American issue. This is a human issue," Rivers said.
US tennis great Serena Williams posted a moving video on Instagram that featured a young African-American girl overcome by emotion as she addressed a public meeting, finally able to force out the words: "We are black people, and we shouldn't have to feel like this."
Teenage tennis phenom Coco Gauff, who is black, had a simple question on her Instagram post: "Am I next?"
And two-time Grand Slam winner Naomi Osaka, whose mother is Japanese and father Haitian, reminded her social media followers: "Just because it isn't happening to you doesn't mean it isn't happening at all."
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the violent protests "reflect the pain, anger and frustration that so many of us feel.