Several Carolina Panthers used their platform as professional athletes in a thoughtful way Thursday, calling for peace as they addressed the fatal police shooting in Charlotte and the violent protests that have followed it. In one case, a prominent player also called for the release of the video of Keith Lamont Scott’s deadly encounter with police.
Said Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis as he asked for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police to release the video: “When you’re looking at a video, you can see it plain as day. That clears a lot of things up for a lot of people. And that’s what a lot of people are struggling with right now, the fact that you have ... conflicting stories.”
Continued Davis: “It’s to a point now where people are feeling like they can’t trust the police and it shouldn’t be that way. ... One way to regain that trust is to release the video.”
Panthers tight end Greg Olsen pulled his children out of school early Thursday in the SouthPark area when he caught wind of a potential protest there.
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Said Olsen: “I called my wife and said, ‘Just go get the kids. Pull them out.’... You don’t know what’s going to happen. ... What if things spiral out of control like last night? This affects everybody.”
Olsen also said there had to be a “common ground” that must be found between protesters and police so that the current state of “chaos” could be calmed down.
Or, as fullback Mike Tolbert said about the situation in general: “It’s a damn shame.”
Panthers safety Tre Boston said he was considering a peaceful protest of his own of some sort on Sunday when Carolina hosts the Minnesota Vikings at 1 p.m. in Charlotte. The game is still on schedule despite Gov. Pat McCrory declaring the area to be under a state of emergency.
Boston said he wasn’t sure if he would kneel during the national anthem like San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been doing or do something else. Boston said he also had thought seriously about going uptown and joining the protests over Scott’s death Wednesday night, but had reconsidered when he saw reporters injured while doing their jobs.
“If I’m out there peacefully just like that reporter, next thing you know I’m Maced,” Boston said. “Now I’ve got to come to practice. Maybe my face is burning, my eyes are burning. ... But I definitely want to do something about it.”
‘America has a problem’
Boston, who is African-American, said he does believe that there is sometimes racial bias in policing. Charlotte is one of a growing list of communities across the country that has erupted in protests after an officer-involved shooting.
“I feel like America has a problem,” Boston said. “I don’t feel like America is a horrible place. I love America. ... But at same time, there are wrongs that are happening every day.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, like his players, said he was in favor of the Minnesota game being played Sunday. He also bemoaned the fact that what had begun as a peaceful protest Wednesday night in uptown Charlotte had turned violent.
Said Rivera, who has lived in Charlotte since getting hired in 2011: “I think right now people wanted to have a peaceful protest. And I think last night some agitators, some people who had their own agenda, their own narrative, took over and created a situation that wasn’t Charlotte. I know Charlotte is better than that. I’ve seen Charlotte’s true character firsthand. From when Cam (Newton) rolled his car and had his accident, when my house burned down, when my brother passed, the way the community gave us support, I mean – that’s Charlotte. The last couple of nights hasn’t been.”
Rivera said he hoped Sunday’s game would stay in Charlotte as scheduled and that it would return a “sense of normalcy” to the community and provide it with a bit of “joy.”
Didn’t solve anything
Davis, who is African-American and who has also won the NFL’s highest award for community service, said he had talked to his two sons about the importance of listening to the police even though he struggles some personally with some of the police shootings around the country. He also said that what happened Wednesday night – which included looting, vandalism and another shooting that police say they were not involved in – didn’t solve anything.
Said Davis: “You see the rioting and stuff that’s going on. ... For anybody that’s out there listening, I just hope people realize that’s not the answer. ... The only message you’re sending doing it that way is we’re going to go out and we’re going to be violent, we’re going to be hoodlums, we’re going to go ahead and conform to the image. ... As an African-American male, we can’t allow that to happen. That’s not who we are.”
Davis is also a big Charlotte Hornets fan and said he was distressed to see that the Hornets store uptown had been looted. Hornets owner Michael Jordan said in a statement Thursday that “in light of the tragic events of the past three days, it is more important than ever that we restore calm and come together, as a community, in peaceful demonstration and conversation, and in constructive and non-violent ways.”
Davis echoed those words.
“There’s a different way of letting people know that you’re fed up, you’re tired of what’s going on,” said Davis, who also offered to be a liaison between police and protesters. “It’s important for us to do it the right way – and that’s by coming together in a peaceful way.”