Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on Memorial Day ignited a wave of protests across the country, athletes from Ohio State have joined in the demonstrations concerning racial injustices and police brutality.

That includes men’s basketball player Seth Towns, who gave an impassioned speech at a protest Downtown last weekend, and football players who organized a “Kneel for Nine” demonstration outside Ohio Stadium on Tuesday in remembrance of Floyd, who died after the officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

As a sign of support, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith released a statement Sunday afternoon.

“The Ohio State Department of Athletics supports the Black Lives Matter movement. We will continue to support our student-athletes as they participate in driving positive change in America so that every person is respected regardless of the color of their skin,” Smith said.

Smith previously attended the “Kneel for Nine” protest and was near the front of the crowd of athletes and other athletic department administrators who knelt outside the rotunda of the stadium.

Linebacker Tuf Borland, who helped organize the demonstration, told The Dispatch that players felt encouraged by the school.

“Everyone in power positions and authority positions were completely supportive of us and what we wanted to do,” Borland said, “and basically give us the freedom to express ourselves however we felt.”

In his statement, Smith said, “All of this activity is initiated and led by student-athletes. When student-athletes and/or teams come to us with issues with which they want to engage, we provide them resources and support.”

Ohio State athletes have remained outspoken on social media regarding social justice issues in the past week.

Smith said they have expressed a desire to be involved in the Black Lives Matter movement in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, and remarked that football players have publicly addressed issues surrounding mental health in previous years. And men’s hockey players had addressed sexual orientation discrimination in concert with an NHL initiative.

”Student-athletes from many departmental teams have engaged in outreach efforts to support young people in underserved parts of the community. This service has become embedded as part of the departmental culture and is often carried into the NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB and WNBA by Buckeyes in their professional sport careers.“

You can read Smith’s entire statement here.

jkaufman@dispatch.com

@joeyrkaufman