Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree may be well known for his position on the men’s basketball team, but most recently, he has become one of many voices calling for change in America. On Tuesday, June 2, he peacefully protested in his West Philadelphia neighborhood, in a demonstration sparked by the murder of George Floyd to bring light to racial injustice.
Cosby-Roundtree marched with other local athletes from the Philadelphia community. The group — all basketball players — was organized by Tymir Johnson and Sam Sessions. Like Cosby-Roundtree, Sessions plays collegiate basketball, but he plays at Penn State.
The group marched from 52nd Street and Haverford to 52nd Street and Baltimore. While walking the 1.5 mile stretch, they collectively chanted, “No justice. No peace. Reform, we need. Say his name, George Floyd.”
After the peaceful demonstration, Cosby-Roundtree spoke with The Villanovan. He first shared two main messages that were intended with the protest.
“One was that we hoped to lead a peaceful protest, in that we did not cause any more harm or trouble to our city,” he said. “We decided that we wanted to just spread a positive message and speak about what is going on within our society. The second message goes with our chants...I believe that this is very important to our message because we believe that there is no justice and no peace in our society until reform takes place from within its core.”
This peaceful protest has been one of many to take place since Monday, May 25, when Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department. Although violence and rioting has also occurred over the past nine days, peaceful demonstrations have taken place in most cities across the nation — from San Francisco to Fort Worth and Milwaukee to Washington D.C.
“I believe that these protests will hopefully bring attention to the true problem within our American society — the fact that we are in a systematically racist society and finding ways to change those systematic issues,” Cosby-Roundtree said. “We live in a society where everyone sees each other with racial biases and changing how our society thinks is something that is incredibly difficult, but it must be done if we are going to move forward in our society in becoming better.”
Cosby-Roundtree referenced current injustices that forced him to a point where he felt like efforts he had already taken to educate his peers and others were not enough.
“I had the uncontrollable urge to get up and participate in something that was bigger than myself,” he said. “I wanted to be able to practice what I was preaching and try to stand up and do whatever I could to get the message across that there is something wrong within our society.”
Although a member of the men’s basketball team and part of the 2018 National Championship team, Cosby-Roundtree does not believe his role as a leader for the University has changed, but he does believe that he has put more upon himself to be a leader at this crucial moment.
“I noticed how much the voices of the athletes mattered to not only young people, but everyone around us,” he said. “So, I felt that it is important to be comfortable with and knowledgeable of this and to use my voice.”
Cosby-Roundtree offered a message to the University community, Philadelphia and especially those who have shared antipathy for the riots and destruction across the nation.
He urges all to think about why people are protesting. He asks others to think about their own anger and rage towards the country if their loved one was under an officer’s knee. He wants people to look at themselves and ask if they would want to be viewed in the same way as black Americans are viewed in the United States.
Cosby-Roundtree offered another way for some to think about the tragic murder of George Floyd. “I want people to ask themselves, if it was their favorite athlete under a knee, would that make them change their minds?”
“I ask that all people look at this as not just a police officer being excessively violent and a murderer,” Cosby-Roundtree said. “I want people to understand that it took a murder by a police officer for change to be outwardly begged for by all.”