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Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey announced on Thursday that he will not honor Antwon Rose Jr. on the back of his helmet anymore this season, and that he had “inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case.”
The Steelers opted to honor Rose — a 17-year-old Black boy who was killed by an East Pittsburgh police officer in a 2018 traffic stop — as a team by wearing his name on the back of their helmets for their season-opener last week.
Rose’s mom, Michelle Kenney, is fine with that decision. Pouncey doesn’t have to wear her son’s name on the back of his helmet if he doesn’t want to.
But it’s how Pouncey made his announcement that she had a problem with.
Rose’s mom mad Pouncey didn’t reach out
Pouncey, in a lengthy Instagram post, said that he is “against racism” and wants to “continue helping repair relationships between the police and their communities.”
Moving forward, he said that he will make his own decision about what to wear on his helmet — something the league is allowing for the first time this fall.
“My focus will continue to be on helping the police in our communities, and I will support making any necessary changes to help those efforts,” he wrote, in part.
After seeing his post, Kenney was disappointed — not because of his desire to help repair relationships between police and their respective communities.
She was upset that he didn’t reach out.
“If he got to know me, he would understand that I am not anti-police,” Kenney said, via ESPN. “I'm actually an advocate for not defunding the police ... I actually want the relationship between the police and the community to be better. So based on part of his letter, we have some common ground here.
“I'm definitely with him that we need to make some changes so that we can establish better relationships between the police and the communities but there's work to be done ... I would have much rather he reached out to me and said, 'Ms. Kenney, I'm questioning my decision on wearing Antwon's name. I'm choosing not to do it, but how can we move forward?’ ”
Rose was the passenger in a car that was pulled over by a white police officer, Michael Rosfeld, in East Pittsburgh in 2018. The driver of the car was handcuffed — the car had matched the description of one involved in a shooting earlier that night — and Rose ran. Rosfeld shot Rose three times in his back, face and elbow and killed him. Video of that incident quickly sparked mass protests and condemnation.
Rosfeld, who was sworn in on the job just hours before killing Rose, was charged with homicide. He reportedly gave conflicting stories about the incident, though was later found not guilty. A federal lawsuit was settled for $2 million last year.
‘Don't set the movement backwards’
Pouncey wasn’t the only Steelers player not on board with honoring Rose.
Offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva covered up the name with tape and instead wrote the name of a Black US Army Sergeant who died of injuries he had sustained while fighting in Iraq.
While Kenney said she cried seeing Rose’s name on the team’s helmets, it’s not about the name. Kenney is just happy that the team is putting in the work.
If they don’t want to wear her son’s name, that’s fine — but she doesn’t want them to “set the movement backwards” in the process.
"I don't have an issue with him not choosing to represent Antwon," Kenney said, via ESPN. "I believe that he, like everyone else, is entitled to their own opinion. ... My only problem with the entire thing was that I was told they were taking a team vote. I do not believe that Antwon's life supersedes the death of any other person. I just believe they died in different ways. Him choosing to represent someone else wasn't what offended me.
"I feel like with Pouncey, like with Villanueva, if you didn't want to wear Antwon's name, say that and don't do it. Don't set the movement backwards because of your own personal agenda. Because this is bigger than Antwon. Antwon's gone. I'm trying to save the life of the next Black person."
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