Weeks after the the removal of Jerry Richardson’s statue, the Carolina Panthers have a head coach talking about kneeling alongside players.
Matt Rhule told reporters on Thursday that he supports “the cause” and would consider taking a knee in protest of social injustice and police brutality during the national anthem.
“I'm supportive of the cause,” Rhule told reporters in a Zoom call. “I'm supportive of the movement. I'm supportive of social justice. I think for every person, coach or player that will be a very personal decision. I think it has to be made at the right time and the right reason for everybody.”
It wasn’t exactly a pledge to take a knee. But an NFL head coach even considering the idea is a drastic shift from just weeks ago. Before George Floyd’s death ignited a national reckoning on race relations, nobody in a position of power in the NFL would publicly acknowledge such a thought.
Shifting tide in NFL and in Charlotte
But a lot has changed in the NFL. And a lot has changed with the Carolina Panthers.
Assuming there is an NFL season in the fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Rhule will take the sideline as a rookie head coach guiding a first-year Panthers quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater working for a third-year owner in David Tepper.
Tepper has ignited sweeping change on the Panthers roster, sideline and front office that included ousting franchise stalwarts Cam Newton and Ron Rivera. He also used the occasion of the nation’s shifting tides on race relations to exile the statue of Richardson from in front of Bank of America Stadium.
Rhule will look to players
The statue was a point of contention when Tepper purchased the Panthers. Richardson sold the franchise after a report that he made multiple payouts to silence allegations of workplace misconduct including the use of a racial slur and sexual harassment.
But he insisted that his statue remain as a clause in the sale. The Panthers overlooked that clause in removing the statue on June 10. Richardson did not protest. And now the team he founded has a coach talking about kneeling during the national anthem to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I will support my players with whatever they do, and then when the time comes I will really think deeply about what is the best thing for me and what is the best way I can show my support,” Rhule continued on Thursday. ...
“I think a lot of this has come from the players so I will wait to see what direction they are leaning, and then I will make my decision.”
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