MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State University is reviewing its options after a tweet by a student about the death of George Floyd prompted outrage from several students, including two football players who threatened to leave, the school’s president said Friday.
On Thursday, one month since Floyd, a Black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly eight minutes, student Jaden McNeil tweeted “Congratulations to George Floyd on being drug free for an entire month!”
University President Richard Myers said Friday that “divisive statements do not represent for the values of our university.”
“We condemn racism and bigotry in all its forms,” Myers said. “We are launching an immediate review of the university’s options. Black Lives Matter at Kansas State University and we will continue to fight for social justice.”
Durango High School alum Carver Willis, a freshman offensive lineman at Kansas State, spoke out on Twitter against McNeil’s tweet.
“I have to sadly say that people that make foolish statements like this that give many conservatives a bad reputations,” Willis said on Twitter. “I apologize on behalf of the conservatives that aren’t like this for the blatant and unbelievable disrespect shown in this tweet. Something needs to be done.”
I have to sadly say that people that make foolish statements like this that give many conservatives a bad reputations. I apologize on behalf of the conservatives that arent like this for the blatant and unbelievable disrespect shown in this tweet. Something needs to be done. https://t.co/jzkKSwTp5f— Carver Willis (@carverwillis75) June 26, 2020
McNeil describes himself as the founder of a conservative group called America First Students, which Kansas State says is not currently registered on the campus because of a lack of membership. America First Students had already drawn the ire of students for past statements made by McNeil. Students released a video last week under the #BlackAtKState hashtag and asked for America First Students to be removed from campus. And a petition has circulated on Twitter asking that the group be banned from campus because it spreads “hateful rhetoric,” The Manhattan Mercury reported.
McNeil did not respond to a message to America First Students seeking comment Friday. He has previously said America First Students is a “mainstream, Christian, conservative organization that supports President Donald Trump.”
Kansas State spokesman Jeff Morris said America First Students is currently not registered on the campus. He said independent student organizations need to have at least five members and renew registration every year, The Kansas City Star reported.
Wide receiver Joshua Youngblood and defensive back Walter Neil Jr. both tweeted that they would not play for the school unless McNeil is removed from campus, though Youngblood has since removed his tweet. Several other players posted tweets criticizing McNeil.
When defensive back Tee Denson was criticized for saying he would not play, Willis again had his teammate’s back.
“I don’t usually get involved on things but one thing is for sure, I will always have my teammates back no matter what,” Willis said in a Tweet. “So you can say it’s just a sport and he’s being wimpy but he’s standing up for what is right and being stronger than you can imagine! I’m with him 100%.”
I dont usually get involved on things but one thing is for sure, I will always have my teammates back no matter what. So you can say it’s just a sport and he’s being wimpy but he’s standing up for what is right and being stronger than you can imagine! I’m with him 100% https://t.co/uSWxm2RrHH— Carver Willis (@carverwillis75) June 26, 2020
Athletics director Gene Taylor and football coach Chris Klieman both criticized McNeil’s tweet and said they would not tolerate racial hate on campus.
“Our program and our coaches will continue to be part of the solution when it comes to racial injustice,” Klieman wrote in a tweet. “I love our players and they know I have their backs.”
College athletes around the country have marched and used their influence to push for social justice since Floyd’s death.
On June 3, University of Missouri athletes and coaches joined with police and other administrators in walking to the Boone County Courthouse and knelt in honor of Floyd, before 62 football players registered to vote. That came on a campus that was roiled by controversy and demonstrations five years ago over the treatment of minorities on campus. Several members of the football team threatened to boycott until the then-president of the school resigned.
McNeil received several tweets of support Friday, including from conservative syndicated columnist Michelle Malkin.
Herald sports editor John Livingston contributed to this report.