Tom Sorensen

Here’s something Rae Carruth must leave behind when he finishes his prison term

Former Carolina Panthers Rae Carruth needs to thank Saundra Adams, left, mother of Cherica and grandmother of Chancellor, right, for raising his son.
Former Carolina Panthers Rae Carruth needs to thank Saundra Adams, left, mother of Cherica and grandmother of Chancellor, right, for raising his son. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

I tried years ago to get an interview with Rae Carruth, the former Carolina Panthers receiver who was convicted in 2001 of ordering a hit on the mother of their son, with whom she was seven months pregnant. Cherica Adams died. The son, Chancellor Adams, was impaired; he has cerebral palsy. Until he talked to WBTV this week, Carruth had been silent 17 years.

His trial began every day with loud and public prayers by the Carruth group and their minister. Women competed on the stand and in the crowd for the attention of Carruth, a first-round draft pick whose career was undone by injuries.

I took one of Carruth’s attorneys to lunch. Nice guy, but he said, “I’m not the media friendly one.” I still paid.

Other attorneys said Carruth should talk; he could prove he’s a human being.

He’s a human being who ordered a hit on the pregnant woman who carried his child. That’s a level of sickness and entitlement most of us can’t fathom.

We did one interview, one-on-one, when Carruth played for the Panthers. He and other players gathered for weekly basketball games, and I thought it would be interesting to find out if they played the sport the way they played football. Carruth was one of the players.

He agreed, through a team media intermediary, to meet with me. But he wouldn’t talk at his locker because others might approach. At a designated time, the intermediary found me in the locker room and led me to the hallway that leads to it. Carruth stood with his back against the wall. He wanted to see who was walking past, and to see if other reporters tried to listen.

After the hit, the Carruth story broke big nationally, and many reporters showed up in Charlotte to find out what we were doing wrong. The premise often was that we glorified professional athletes here, and that because we did they felt entitled to do what they wanted to, and to whom.

RaeCarruthTrial2001
The trial of former Carolina Panthers receiver Rae Carruth, right, began every day with loud and public prayers by the Carruth group and their minister. Women competed on the stand and in the crowd for the attention of Carruth, a first-round draft pick whose career was undone by injuries. Jeff Siner jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

The premise was flawed. You don’t think NFL players are a big deal in Dallas or Denver, Minneapolis or Miami, Nashville or New York?

Did we, Charlotte, create an environment where the entitled could thrive? No more than most other places. If Carruth had played for the Kansas City Chiefs, he likely would not be a candidate for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award.

Carruth will complete his prison term in October. Will the entitlement he brought to his life, and to his trial, leave prison with him? If he leaves it behind, he’ll begin by thanking Saundra Adams, mother of Cherica and grandmother of Chancellor, for raising the young man.

It would be a start.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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