The city of Charlotte is now the latest flashpoint for protests and violence in response to police actions.
Tear gas and gunfire scarred the city on Wednesday night after a police officer shot and killed Keith Lamont Scott, a black man, in Charlotte’s University City.
Police officials said Scott was carrying a gun, his family said he was only carrying a book, and the resulting outrage consumed the entire city, football team included.
The Carolina Panthers play their home games just blocks from where rioters broke windows and looted shops, just blocks from where police brandishing full riot gear stared down unarmed protesters.
The Panthers have become a visible and vital part of Charlotte’s downtown, and for all the complaining from fans who want their sports sacrosanct and free of politics, the truth is that the Panthers are Charlotte, and the Panthers have plenty to say about the state of their city right now.
First and foremost, the Panthers have a home game on Sunday against Minnesota.
Given that rioters shut down the nearby interstate on Wednesday night, there’s every reason to be concerned about fans’ safety at the event.
There are discussions afoot about moving the game, though sources differ on the extent and seriousness of those discussions:
Statement from Carolina #PanthersPresident Danny Morrisonpic.twitter.com/T8yFYsj42W
— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers)September 22, 2016
Cam Newton is the most famous face in Charlotte, and he was asked on Wednesday about the shooting, prior to the riots taking place. Newton didn’t speak specifically of the Scott incident, but took a larger view:
“My big thing is always holding people accountable, no matter what the race is, no matter what the gender is,” he said.
“We all have to hold each other accountable.”
Newton has drawn heat for his statements on race in the past; to his credit, he hasn’t shied away from doing so again, even knowing he’ll catch criticism no matter what he says:
“I’m in a position now where if I say something, it’s going to be critiqued and if I don’t say something, ‘Oh, you fake or you flaw,’” he said.
“I’m a firm believer of justice. I’m a firm believer of doing the right thing. And I can’t repeat it enough of just holding people accountable.”
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera touched on larger political issues consuming North Carolina, like the HB2 ordinance that has led the NBA, NCAA, and ACC to pull major sporting events out of the state.
“There needs to be some conversation,” he said. “But the people that should be conversing about it aren’t. Are they?
“Have they reached across party lines? Have they reached across the Senate and the House and talked about it?
“Have you heard anything come from them? No, we haven’t, have we?”
The Panthers have the ability to help pull a fractured Charlotte together. But it’ll be a rough road in the Queen City until that happens.
SOURCE: Yahoo Sports