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Dyami Brown didn't need a lot of space to say what he needed to.
AP

Dyami Brown didn't need a lot of space to say what he needed to.

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Miami North Carolina Football

North Carolina's Dyami Brown (2) celebrates as he crosses the goal line on a long touchdown reception against Miami.

The North Carolina wide receiver crafted a 67-character message he shared with a picture on Twitter the night of June 3, a little more than a week after the death of George Floyd and as protests popped up around the nation.

The photo showed Brown during a home game, celebrating against a wall of Kenan Memorial Stadium behind the end zone. Fans shouted, celebrated and reached out to touch Brown in the frozen moment.

"Sometimes I think this the only time they really care about my life," he wrote.

Brown was one of the ACC's best receivers last season, grabbing 12 touchdowns. But his post pointed to the other aspects of his life. He's more than a pair of receiver's gloves and a jersey number.

That short message garnered more than 14,000 retweets and 60,000 favorites. It became one of multiple examples during the past several months of student-athletes channeling their voices to facilitate change or conversation, specifically through their online presence.

Social media is nothing new at this point — Instagram and Twitter, the pillars of successful branding, have been around for a decade. And neither is the platform of the athlete.

But the combination of marches and protests of racial and social injustice, combined with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, created a moment where student-athletes found more security to leverage their power.

In a time when student-athletes still are shrouded by communications departments — where requests to interview student-athletes can be declined or unanswered by staff members of any program — and don't have the right to earn money from their abilities as the name, image and likeness battle wages on, empowerment can be achieved and displayed by a quick post from a cell phone.

Some players made points about police brutality or racism outright. Others demanded more accountability from their coaches. And guys like Brown just wanted to be seen as something more.

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