HOUSTON – Former San Antonio Spurs player and Houston native Stephen Jackson is opening up about his longtime friendship with George Floyd, who is seen in a video pleading for his life as a Minneapolis police officer kneels on his neck.
Jackson told KSAT’s sister station KPRC in Houston that Floyd’s death and the video, which has erupted in protests and sparked outrage across the country, is heartbreaking.
“It shut me down man, I screamed, I scared my daughter and I was punching stuff," Jackson said.
Their friendship flourished after they met in the early 90s in the city’s Third Ward. Over time, Jackson said he would find Floyd every time he traveled to Houston.
“He honestly cared about me, he made sure nothing was going to happen to me and he didn’t let anybody take advantage of me," he told KPRC.
Floyd had his ups and downs and moved to Minnesota for a better life, Jackson told KPRC. He said they last spoke about a year ago, when he sent Floyd clothes for work.
The former NBA player also spoke out their friendship in a series of Instagram posts. In one video, Jackson says that they were called “twins” because of their resemblance.
Some images shared by Jackson show Floyd during his time at Jack Yates High School, where he emerged as a star tight end. He even played in a 1992 state championship game in the Astrodome.
Floyd had recently lost his job as a bouncer at a restaurant when Minnesota’s governor issued a stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Associated Press. He previously had jobs working security and driving trucks.
He died in police custody Monday after an employee at a Minneapolis grocery store called police after Floyd allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
In a widely circulated cellphone video of the subsequent arrest, Floyd can be seen on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back while Officer Derek Chauvin presses him to the pavement with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The video shows Chauvin, who is white, holding Floyd down for minutes as Floyd complains he can’t breathe. The video ends with paramedics lifting a limp Floyd onto a stretcher and placing him in an ambulance.
Jackson told KPRC that he plans to travel to the city to fight for justice while honoring Floyd.
“He didn’t deserve that and we have to draw a line in the sand, ain’t no playing both sides. Either you stand for what’s right or you’re condoning what’s wrong,” Jackson said.