Derrick Rose wore an ‘‘I can’t breathe’’ T-shirt during warmups Saturday, sparking a storm of comments on Twitter and, presumably, beyond.
The NBA’s 2011 MVP, Rose was showing solidarity with Eric Garner, who, when put in a choke hold, repeatedly said, ‘‘I can’t breathe.’’ Garner died while being arrested by New York police for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island.
By weighing in, Rose has added another layer to mounting nationwide protests. That’s especially true because he always has cultivated a caring, low-key, humble image with his public comments and actions.
Rose slipped out of the Bulls’ locker room without commenting after their 112-102 loss to the Golden State Warriors. But he made his point.
‘‘I thought it was great,’’ forward Taj Gibson said. ‘‘It was just him speaking his mind, speaking out.
‘‘It’s a good thing for a positive movement. I’m from New York. I thought it was a great message. But it’s rough after you lose.’’
A photo of Rose wearing the shirt, shot from the game telecast, was tweeted and retweeted as people weighed in on Rose’s comment and, consequently, the issue of white police vs. black men.
‘‘A lot of people feel that way,’’ center Joakim Noah said. ‘‘What he said, what happened. Police brutality is something that happens. Not every cop is a bad person. Not every black person is a bad person. You can’t judge people. But he definitely made a statement by wearing that.’’
Coach Tom Thibodeau said he did not see the T-shirt.
No question, Rose’s voice gives more resonance to the debate and controversy over police incidents in New York, St. Louis and elsewhere.
‘‘I respect Derrick Rose for rocking the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ tee for warmups,’’ TV analyst Jalen Rose, a former Bull, wrote on Twitter.
When the Bulls star point guard, an Englewood native who’s living the professional sports dream, weighs in, it represents another moment when the line between sports and larger issues has become blurred.
Although Rose appeared with President Barack Obama, this is the first time he has taken a social stand. Before the season began, he donated $1 million to After School Matters, a non-profit organization that helps teenagers.
On Friday, NBA legend Magic Johnson urged top athletes to take more stands like Rose’s.
‘‘They have to get involved socially,’’ Johnson said, ‘‘because it affects them, too. They grew up in these situations. They must not forget that.’’
The Garner incident has sparked nationwide outcries. They come on the heels of widespread demonstrations against the decision not to indict a Ferguson, Missouri, policeman for the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Five St. Louis Rams showed their solidarity with the Ferguson protesters, who have been chanting, ‘‘Hands up. Don’t shoot.’’ The football players put their hands in the air, as demonstrators have been doing.
Five Tulane basketball players joined in the protest before their game with Mississippi State on Saturday afternoon by also making the hands-up gesture.
Sports notables Mike Ditka and Charles Barkley also have made their views known with emphatic words.
‘‘It’s a shame this thing has come to this,’’ Ditka said in his Sun-Times column. ‘‘The shame of it is, I’m not sure they care about Michael Brown or anything else. This was a reason to protest and to go out and loot.’’
Former NBA star Barkley, now a TV analyst, said, ‘‘Them jackasses who are looting, those aren’t real black people. Those are scumbags.’’