On Thursday, Seth Towns participated in a virtual graduation ceremony from Harvard. On Friday, he got detained by police at a downtown Columbus protest in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man. On Saturday, video of the incident spread rapidly, getting picked up by national media outlets. And early Sunday morning, he appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter for an interview.
In his first media appearance since the detainment, Towns made clear that this won’t be the last time he speaks up – both with his words and actions.
“We have to be true to who we are, true to our voices,” Towns said on ESPN. “We have to use those voices to impact people. There is a huge dilemma in this country right now that needs to be addressed, and I won't shut up. I won't stop. I will continue to use my voice to speak out for the people who aren't heard, and that's what I did. Voice is so important. And when I say voice, I'm not talking about speaking, per se. I'm talking about actions. I'm talking about going out and protesting and doing your duty as a member of this democracy.”
The Columbus native and Northland High School graduate, who is transferring to Ohio State after spending four years at Harvard, got detained on Friday night during what he described as a “peaceful protest in the street.” He and others were told to back up, Towns said. Then, what he estimated to be around six police officers put him in handcuffs and led him to the back of a police van with fellow detained protesters. Towns did not get charged with any crimes and was released later on Friday.
Chris Holtmann released a statement on Saturday afternoon in support of Towns and his right to peacefully protest. Harvard coach Tommy Amaker, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and Buckeyes assistant coaches Ryan Pedon and Jake Diebler also expressed their support of him.
“I don’t regret anything,” Towns said. “Again, we have to be heard and this is a very serious issue, and I won’t stop.”
Asked what stood out during the protest and detainment, Towns referenced two aspects.
“One, the solidarity,” he said. “I felt the pain. I felt amongst all the other protestors. There was no malice involved. They were just out there expressing their pain and demanding justice, which again, is their duty. And the second thing, looking in the eyes of those police officers, each one standing in the front line, to many it was just another day on the job and they felt no remorse. They felt no empathy, no sympathy for the people who are struggling out there painfully protesting and then the others who are also very scared. You could tell. You could look in their eyes and tell. There were many police officers who did not want to be there.”
Later that night, once Towns was released and back in his residence, he and Holtmann had a conversation. For Holtmann, as he said in his statement, it came as no surprise that the Harvard graduate spoke out on social issues.
“I think athletes have a unique platform to speak up for what’s wrong and to speak as a voice of the people,” Towns said. “People look at the athletes for several reasons, and with this platform, you have a responsibility. I think all people, in general, have a responsibility just because that is the duty you have. So athletes absolutely have a unique opportunity, but everyone has responsibility in this.”
Towns has two more years of collegiate eligibility remaining, but he doesn't want to be known as just another player in an Ohio State jersey.
He wants to be seen and heard off of the court, too, while having an impact on issues that matter to him and his community. This was just the beginning, as he implied on Sunday morning.
On Sunday evening, Towns participated in another protest in downtown Columbus and gave multiple speeches to the crowd on hand, as captured in video by 10TV's Shawn Dunagan and in a video he retweeted.
We will not be silenced https://t.co/MucIhTuYVa— Seth (@seth_towns17) June 1, 2020
“Everybody who I love has texted me and said, ‘Stay our of harm’s way. While you’re out there protesting, stay out of harm’s way,’ But I’m always in harm’s way,” Towns said on Sunday evening. “I am always in harm’s way, and I will continue to be in harm’s way until justice is served and progress is made.”