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Panthers head coach Matt Rhule: Protests 'are only the beginning'
Supports players in push for social justice
Published Wednesday, June 3, 2020 7:59 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said he supports players advocating for social justice in America. "I can't understand what it's like to have racism pressed against me," he said in a virtual press conference Wednesday with local media. "I can try to understand, but I can't understand."

Social justice activism is apparent among the Carolina Panthers.

Matt Rhule, a first-year NFL head coach, spoke with players in a team meeting last Friday. The team originally scheduled a guest speaker for comedic relief, but Rhule canceled the speaker in light of social upheaval in America’s cities. Instead, he told the team he supported them using their voices as advocates for change in light of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor due to unchecked police brutality.

The players proceeded to reach out to him. No one asked permission to protest. They did not have to. Safety Tre Boston, linebackers Shaq Thompson and Andre Smith, as well as tight ends Chris Manhertz and Ian Thomas participated in the June 1 protest in the Dilworth and Myers Park neighborhoods.

“A lot of players reached out to me after that on Friday,” Rhule said Wednesday in a virtual press conference with local media. “That was where I said, ‘hey I support how you use your voice.’ Guys going to protests have been on their own. They obviously haven’t checked with me or anything. They’ve done what they feel they needed to do. I’ve had some personal conversations with some guys who have reached out to me as time has gone on, and every conversation is different. I’m just trying to support guys.”

Rhule understands in conversing with a predominantly black team in a predominantly black league that he needs to listen.

“I can’t understand what it’s like to have racism pressed against me,” he said. “I can try to understand, but I can’t understand. The best I can do is listen to guys who have dealt with it and allow me to understand where they are coming from so I can better understand what they are saying so I can make changes in my life.”

The Panthers released a team statement Saturday, committing the organization to doing its part to influence change. Rhule said the players and the Player Impact Committee were involved in the process.

“That was a statement from all of us,” he said. “To talk about Mr. Floyd, to talk about his death I thought was important, to honor him in that small way. The first step was that, and supporting our players as they go to protests. Making that statement and now addressing these things with [the media], the next thing is action. What’s going to come next?”

Protests have taken place in Charlotte beginning on May 29 and have taken place every day since.

“The protests are great, but they are only the beginning,” Rhule said. “Protests, people making their voices heard, peaceful protestors in the street, they’re bringing awareness to the issue, but what happens next? I’ll be honest with you, I’m trying to figure it out…we can’t look back in 10 years and say, ‘nothing great came from this.’ It can’t happen. My wife and I are trying to figure that out for our kids. Part of that is having my kids sit there and watch protests. Having my kids watch the death of Mr. Floyd. It can’t be something they don’t feel. That might be hard to sit there and show a 5-year old daughter [an officer kill Floyd by kneeling on his neck], but that’s what happened. I need my kids to see that.”


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