Before North Carolina officials responded to continued protests and unrest in Charlotte over Officer Brentley Vinson’s fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by decaring a state of emergency, two outspoken Black NFL players shared their views on the situation during press conferences yesterday (September 21).
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, both previously shamed by White fans and sports media via racist dogwhistles, each weighed in on Scott’s killing.
The Tacoma News Tribune shared a video from Sherman’s press conference yesterday. After making some cursory statements about the Seahawks’ upcoming game against Colin Kaepernick‘s San Francisco 49ers, Sherman said he would not take any questions from assembled media. Instead, Sherman spoke about police violence and the stand players like Kap (and his team) are taking. Without referring to Scott or recent Tulsa-based victim Terence Crutcher by name, he addressed the criticism towards player protests head-on:
I think you have players that are trying to take a stand and trying to be aware of social issues and try to make a stand and increase people’s awareness and put a spotlight on it, and they’re being ignored. Whether they’re taking a knee or whether they’re locking arms, they’re trying to bring people together and unite them for a cause. And I think the last couple days, a couple more guys have gotten shot and killed in the middle of the street, more videos have come out of guys getting killed, and I think people are still missing the point. The reason these guys are kneeling, the reason we’re locking arms is to bring people together to make people aware that this is not right. It’s not right for people to get killed in the street….
And when you tell a kid, "When you’re dealing with police, just put your hands up and comply with everything," and there’s still a chance of them getting shot and no repercussions for anyone, that’s an unfortunate time to be living…. When you say, "We need Black fathers to be in the community to stay there for your kids," but they’re getting killed in the street for nothing, for putting their hands on their cars. And I think that’s the unfortunate part, that’s the unfortunate place that we’re living in. And something needs to be done. And so when a guy takes a knee, you can ignore it. You can say he’s not being patriotic, he’s not honoring the flag. I’m doing none of those things. I’m saying, straight up, this is wrong and we need to do something.
Newton, who plays in Charlotte, addressed Scott’s killing more directly while delivering a message of accountability yesterday. "I’m a firm believer of justice, I’m a firm believer of doing the right thing," he said. "And I can’t repeat it enough, of just holding people accountable."
Acknowledging that people would criticize him no matter what he said and addressing the 2013 killing of Jonathan Ferrell by unindicted officer Randall Kerrick in Charlotte, the NFL MVP called police killings "embarrasing" and implored accountability from both Black people and society at large:
I’m an African American. I am not happy with how the justice has been dealt with over the years, the state of oppression in our community. But we also, as Black people, have to do right by ourselves. We can’t be hypocrites. And I say that on one voice and also another voice that when you go public or when things happen in the community, it’s not the fact that things are happening, it’s the way they’re being treated after they happen. When you get a person that does some unjust things, or killing an innocent person, killing fathers, killing people who have actual families? That’s real.
Both players mentioned their community service work, with Newton calling his foundation’s efforts in Charlotte "a stand in my own right."
Sherman and Newton’s statments come after previous criticism that they weren’t adequately addressing police violence in Black communities. Sherman asked why Black Lives Matter didn’t apply to killings perpetrated by Black people against other Black people during a press conference last year. Newton deflected questions about racism during a GQ interview this year, saying America was "beyond that." These new statements, coupled with Newton’s recent Instagram post about Kaepernick’s protest, prompted more criticisms against the Panthers QB.