Carolina Panthers safety Marcus Ball raised his right hand high in a fist with his index finger raised during the National Anthem before Sunday’s matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.
"One love. That's all I gotta say.”
That was Ball’s sole explanation of the gesture immediately following the game. But later on Instagram, he explained further: “In difficult and challenging times, this wonderful nation needs UNITY and LOVE. I LOVE the city of Charlotte and I LOVE my TEAM. That is what my gesture was intended to express.”
Ball is the team’s only player to make an overt public gesture following Tuesday’s fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.
Quarterback Cam Newton during his workout wore a shirt with the message “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” a quote made famous by Martin Luther King Jr.
Tre Boston, also a safety, says don't expect the Panthers to keep quiet for long.
Boston says there's been a lot of talk in the Panthers locker room about how best to show a sign of unity against discrimination, something to which San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has drawn attention as he kneels during the National Anthem.
This week, there just wasn't a consensus on how best to act, Boston said.
When you want to show a sign of unity, he explained, you have to have unity.
“We want to make sure we’re not disrespecting anybody, and that we’re giving everybody the respect they deserve, from the policemen to the social injustice victims to the military fighting for us to this day,” Boston said.
Kaepernick has drawn fierce criticism for his actions, some describing the kneeling as unpatriotic and disrespectful to the military. Others, such as his teammate safety Eric Reid and Denver Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall, among others, have also started kneeling during the anthem. The Seattle Seahawks have started linking arms during the anthem.
Following Scott’s death, Boston was among the most vocal Panthers players on social media.
“Wow this actually hurts, a city I've grown to love. Charlotte what are we doing? This is in my backyard. We must do better #KeithLamontScott,” he tweeted early Wednesday morning.
"It’s something I feel very strongly about. I commend him for doing that," Boston said of Ball's actions.
Boston, who stood next to Ball during the anthem, said he really wanted to “do something” before the Vikings game. “I felt like today was our biggest platform as a city. This Sunday, after everything happened.”
“We have to figure out a way to show (Charlotte) that not only will we play for you, we want to be with you in these times. We want to show you that we recognize what’s going on.”
Following Scott's death, peaceful protests broke out in the streets of uptown Charlotte. Some, like the ones on Wednesday, turned violent. A young black protester named Justin Carr was shot in front of the Omni Hotel, and later died.
Tight end Ed Dickson said after the Vikings game that the shooting and the week’s unrest was “tough mentally.” In his post-game press conference, head coach Ron Rivera dismissed the notion that the team was distracted by everything going on in the city.
“What happened here was very tragic and what we were hoping to do was to come out and put that aside for a while. We just didn’t play very well. I’m not looking for excuses,” Rivera said of the Panthers’ 22-10 loss to Minnesota.
Boston says he will not let another week go by without displaying some sort of sign of solidarity. It’s just a matter of figuring out what, and how.
“This is way bigger than football. Football is a sport, and I’m thankful for the sport I play. But at the end of the day, we’re talking about human beings’ lives being taken,” he said.
“We need to be a family, no matter what race, what gender. We have to find a way to come together.”