CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio -- One of the top collegiate football recruits for the class of 2018, Tyreke Smith, has come under fire for a t-shirt he wore during camp at the Ohio State University.
“I knew there was going to be backlash for me,” said Tyreke. “The shirt’s pretty harsh.”
The shirt reads, “I hope I don’t get killed for being black today.”
Pictures of it immediately went viral and drew a strong response on social media sites with some people supporting Tyreke and others calling it racist.
The 17-year-old defensive end from Cleveland Heights, who is nationally ranked and being recruited by dozens of top universities, says he got the tee from his older brother, Malik Smith, who designed and began printing them after several friends passed away.
“A lot of friends close to me were killed,” said Malik. “I got to thinking, 'Am I next? So, I decided to put it on a t-shirt.”
Malik and Tyreke say, it’s meant to draw attention to all forms of violence within and being perpetrated on the African-American community.
“Some people think it’s just about the police, but it says nothing about the police,” said Malik, who is a business major and pilot, “It’s some police brutality and some black on black issues we’re having ... murder rates are sky rocking ... every time I leave my house, I think, 'Am I gonna be the next one to lose my life?'”
The family started a business where they are now selling the t-shirts called “My Brothers Keeper.” Proceeds from the sales will be used to start a scholarship fund for other Cleveland Heights students making a difference.
They hope the t-shirt remains a conversation starter and leads to better understanding and unity among all people.
“I wanted to get the message across and I knew with the platform I had, I could,” said Tyreke.