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University of Cincinnati basketball player Jillian Hayes urges others to speak up

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Jun 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-01 18:25:39-04

GOSHEN TOWNSHIP, Ohio — Jillian Hayes felt sick to her stomach last week when she watched the video of George Floyd's arrest before his death.

"I was outraged," said the University of Cincinnati freshman basketball player. "I was upset. Everybody thinks, 'Oh, it won't happen to somebody that I love. It won't happen to somebody in my family.' But, the reality is it can happen to anyone."

Hayes, who graduated from Loveland High School last week, attended Monday afternoon's protest with her family outside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

"I'm tired of having to worry about whether my dad or my brothers or my cousins, my uncles -- just friends in general -- when they leave the house if they are going to make it home safe," Hayes said. "So I think it's very important that we show our support by being there and just voicing out against the injustices that are going on."

RELATED: Join the Cincinnati area high school sports Facebook group

Monday's objective was simple yet carried a powerful message: Hayes and her family wanted their voices heard in order to spark change.

"Just to not be silenced," Hayes said. "You know come together and be united with all the people that are there in honor of George Floyd and all the other senseless murders of black men and women."

Former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck before his death. Chauvin was charged late last week with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

Jonathan Hayes, Jillian's father and a former Cincinnati Bengals assistant coach, was disheartened to see what occurred in Minnesota.

"I think the hardest part obviously having worked in some law enforcement when I was younger and then knowing my father worked in law enforcement for years -- the injustice, the lack of respect for life -- that really is hard to see and to watch," he said. "And just being brutally honest, watching a white man just kill a black man in the middle of day and no one could do anything to save him."

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Former XFL head coach Jonathan Hayes, a former Bengals assistant coach, was disheartened to learn of George Floyd's death in Minnesota. Hayes said the human race needs to unify in order to understand different perspectives.

Jonathan and his wife, Kristi, said it was important to show Jillian and her younger brothers Jonah and Jewett how to peacefully protest on Monday in speaking up for social change.

New Orleans Pelicans rookie center Jaxson Hayes -- the eldest sibling -- attended a protest in New Orleans this past weekend.

"We have to come together as a human race," Jonathan Hayes said. "And as people we have to understand we're all going to have differences. But we have to be able to understand that just because we have differences there is a lot of similarities and things that we all want to be able to have in our lives. We want to be able to live a nice life. We want to be able to have the things that you want your children to experience."

Jillian Hayes led the effort for her family to attend the protest. Her parents supported the initiative 100%.

"She has been front and center on it all along," Jonathan Hayes said. "She's always had views -- even more so."

Loveland girls basketball coach Darnell Parker said Jillian is a significant proponent of racial equality.

"Jillian is extremely passionate about the things that she believes in and very receptive to what's going on," Parker said. "She has been one of those kids that's done a great job of being out there and active and being a leader well beyond her years."

Hayes said she has participated in Zoom calls with UC coaches and teammates about what has occurred in the country over the past week.

She said the UC coaching staff has given its full support to the players. Hayes encouraged other student-athletes to speak up.

"Whatever platform you can use -- whether it's starting a conversation, asking questions, reposting something on Instagram, donating, going to these protests. Just whatever you can do to do your part. Signing petitions -- there is a lot of petitions going around. Just whatever you can do -- just don't be silent."

Parker said Hayes is the type of student-athlete who definitely has a vision for her future.

"These are the types of kids that are going to lead our nation," Parker said. "I wouldn't be surprised some day after she is out of school that Jill is in some sort of public service where she is a mayor, a governor, a senator or whatnot so she can enact some sort of change and build this country up."