Oct. 19, 2016
Panthers and the NFL Were Right to Play Through Protests
A little over 2 weeks ago, the city of Charlotte was in shambles. The recent and very controversial shooting of Keith Scott had sent the city into a state of unrest. Members of the community crowded the streets protesting, rioting, and causing property damage. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory deemed the city to be in a state of emergency and had the National Guard station themselves in the streets to restore peace.
Throughout all of this, the Carolina Panthers played their game against the Minnesota Vikings.
Protesters stood outside the gates of the stadium as fans entered, and the Panthers still moved forward with their season. For the protesters, this game took away from the true focus of the situation and downplayed Scott’s death. The Panthers and the NFL disagreed, seeing the game as a source of benefit to the area.
During this hostile and unbelievable event, the NFL had a decision to make. In regards to player and fan safety, should the Panthers-Vikings game be moved or rescheduled? The Front Office contemplated this question for several days as the madness in Charlotte took place, leaving fans in a state of unknown. Finally, on the Thursday prior to the game, the NFL released a public statement, noted on Brian McCarthy’s Twitter page, that the game would go on as planned.
However, to make sure that fans and players would be kept safe, the game was deemed an extraordinary event, which meant that more security would be added around the stadium. This extra protection proved useful and it kept the game day protesters under control.
Leading up the game, the NFL wasn’t the only one to speak on the matter of playing through the protests. Panthers’ linebacker Thomas Davis and tight end Greg Olsen both spoke with the media, and both agreed that the game should be played. Olsen noted how sporting events are able to bring a large and diverse group of people together for a few hours and create a sense of unity. More of their statements can be read in an ESPN article written by David Newton.
The decision of whether or not the game should be played became so important that it was even a topic of discussion on ESPN First Take the Friday prior to the game. During the 13-minute conversation, both Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman spoke on the events occurring in the streets of Charlotte and how playing the game could help people move forward. They also mentioned that sports bring people in today’s society together more than anything else, which can be helpful for a broken community. The following link will take you to a video of the entire segment.
Cam Newton, widely considered the face of the franchise by Panthers fans, also spoke on the protests earlier in the week, but made his real statement right before the game. During warm-ups, Newton was seen wearing a shirt quoting Martin Luther King Jr. The shirt, which read "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere", was given national publicity before and after the game, which was exactly what he was looking for.
Newton’s decision to speak out is important because of the influence he has in the immediate community and communities nationwide. Many people, and kids especially, look to Newton as a role-model and so his wearing of this shirt serves multiple purposes. It first highlights the importance of what had been going on, but it also instills in younger generations the realization that change must be made.
The Panthers and the NFL made the right decision to play the game. While it could not correct the wrong that had been done, or heal the Scott family from their loss, the game could serve to stop the fighting for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon and simply bring everyone together for a common cause; to watch football.
Each game thousands of people from various racial and ethnic backgrounds pack the stands to cheer on the Panthers. During the 3 hours they are there, the focus is not the color of each fans’ skin but on the game occurring on the field. The decision to play this game was correct because it acted as a brief distraction from what had been going on throughout the week in the Charlotte community.
Sometimes, in order to move forward, a distraction and sense of unity is what you need.