Nickelodeon goes off-air for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to play breathing sounds alongside the words ‘I can’t breathe’ in tribute to George Floyd

  • Nickelodeon played 8 minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds on Monday 
  • During the video they flashed the words ‘I can’t breathe,’ words said by African Americans George Floyd and Eric Garner as they died as the hands of police 
  • In the clip, the children’s network told viewers to text ‘DEMANDS’ to 55156 to ‘call on public officials across the country to take real action’
  • Some adults complained it could be scary for children but Nickelodeon defended the move 
  • ‘Unfortunately, some kids live in fear everyday. It is our job to use our platform to make sure that their voices are heard and their stories are told,’ they replied 

Nickelodeon paused its programming on Monday to play 8 minutes and 46 seconds of breathing sounds in support of ‘justice, equality, and human rights’ after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota last Monday.

Floyd – a 46-year-old black man – died after three Minneapolis Police officers held him face down on the ground and white cop Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes as the man cried: ‘I can’t breathe.’

As the music industry led a blackout initiative, pledging not to spend or sell anything Tuesday in protest of racial inequality, Nickelodeon had its own blackout the night before.

‘You have the right to be seen, heard, and respected as a citizen of the world,’ read rolling credits in an early tribute on Monday at 5pm Eastern. 

‘You have the right to a world that is peaceful. You have the right to be treated with equality, regardless of the color of your skin.

‘You have the right to be protected from harm, injustice, and hatred. You have the right to an education that prepares you to run the world. You have the right to your opinions and feelings, even if others don’t agree with them.’

It was a message originally created in June 1990.

Later in the evening, the network played a countdown with the words ‘I can’t breathe’ slowly flashing, accompanied by breathing audio.

Viewers were also given information about Color of Change, telling them to text ‘DEMANDS’ to 55156 to ‘call on public officials across the country to take real action’. 

The company said it was encouraging employees to ‘shift their focus from building our business to building community’.

But some adults complained Nickelodeon was not the right platform to address racial inequality. However, the network disagreed.

African American man George Floyd (pictured) died after white cop Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly minutes last Monday

‘This is not the right platform for this at all. The average age of the children that watch your channel are under the age of 12 and if anything all you’re doing is scaring children and that is just wrong,’ one social media user commented.

However Nickelodeon responded: ‘Unfortunately, some kids live in fear everyday. It is our job to use our platform to make sure that their voices are heard and their stories are told.’

One Twitter user noted that African American child ‘Tamir Rice was 12 years old when he was gunned down by the police while holding a toy gun’. 

Some adults defended the move, pointing out that programming such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? is scarier.

One tweeted: ‘Imagine the privilege of your child being scared of some words on a Nickelodeon screen as opposed to black children being afraid of getting murdered for nothing daily.’

Another said: ‘Some white parents LOVE shielding their kids from REAL s**t! This is why some white kids grow up sheltered and ignorant. Nickelodeon did what it had to do! Your kids are in the real world too. You need to teach them social justice! Why is Black Lives Matter a thing? TEACH THEM!’

Some adults praised Nickelodeon’s action and criticized the response from parents who were offended by the pause in programming

ViacomCBS networks MTV, VH1, Comedy Central, CBS Sports and BET did the same on Monday.

The media company’s website also went dark with only a message: ‘Our Business Is On Pause Today.’

The president of Entertainment & Youth Group, Chris Mccarthy, told staff in an email: ‘One week ago, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the breath of one of our fellow humans was taken from him. His name was George Floyd.

‘Today at 5pm ET, the E&Y brands and platforms around the world will go dark for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to show our support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the fight against police brutality and racial inequality.

‘We know there is a lot of work ahead of us, and I am committed to action beyond these words with all of you. We must continue to work together, to look within, and to support one other and our fellow humans – all with compassion for each other.’

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