By Steve Keating
(Reuters) - The sporting world celebrated the conviction on Tuesday of former Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd but cautioned there was still work ahead to achieve racial justice and equality.
The verdict followed months of protest in the United States triggered by the murder of Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, last May that sparked a global movement uniting athletes around the world.
In an arrest captured on video, Chauvin is seen pushing his knee into the neck of the handcuffed Floyd for more than nine minutes outside the grocery store where he had been accused of buying cigarettes with a fake $20 bill.
"Thank God ... guilty! Justice has been served!!," tweeted NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.
The three-week trial had raised already raw tensions further as cities across the U.S. braced for the possibility of an unpopular verdict and more protests.
There were reports leagues had prepared plans to postpone games if the verdict sparked violence but instead there were celebrations on the streets and across social media.
"JUSTICE for George! The emotions I feel right now are hard to describe," said Formula One's only Black driver, seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton on his Twitter account. "Derek Chauvin has been found guilty.
"This is monumental, George’s death is not in vain.
"Convicting him of all three charges marks a new dawn in the fight for racial justice."
A 12-member jury needed only 10 hours of deliberation to convict Chauvin of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Most of North America's sport leagues were quick to respond, the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLS and WNBA all issuing statements praising the verdict and promising to do more to fight racism.
"This past year, we have witnessed traumatizing instances of police brutality that Black Americans disproportionately experience, with the murder of George Floyd at the forefront of the conversation," said WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement.
"While this verdict represents a step toward justice, we are reminded that justice is too often not the outcome for people of color.
"The WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council will continue its work to combat injustice and inequality in our country and hope this represents a true turning point for how the effects of systemic racism begin to be addressed."
The NBA and its players led the Black Lives Matter movement from the front throughout, postponing three playoff games in August following the police shooting of another Black man, Jacob Blake, in the city of Kenosha, Wisconsin.
The move triggered similar demonstrations across other sports with MLB, MLS and WNBA also postponing games, while four-times tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka joined the protests by pulling out of a tournament after reaching the semi-finals.
Los Angeles Lakers all-star LeBron James, one of the sporting world's loudest voices in the fight against police brutality, had just one word to describe the verdict: "ACCOUNTABILITY," tweeted James.
On tennis's biggest stage Japan's Osaka stepped up and took a leading role at the U.S. Open, wearing masks with the name of a Black victim of police brutality, including Floyd, in each of her seven matches on the way to winning the Grand Slam.
"I was going to make a celebratory tweet but then I was hit with sadness because we are celebrating something that is clear as day," tweeted Osaka. "The fact that so many injustices occurred to make us hold our breath toward this outcome is really telling."
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Additional reporting Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, Amy Tennery in New York, Frank Pingue in Toronto. Editing by Stephen Coates)