Panthers Stand for Anthem; Peppers Stays in Locker Room
Many NFL teams and players made statements around the league on Sunday as they chose to either demonstrate or stay in the locker room during the pre-game national anthem.
The Baltimore Ravens chose to link arms. The Pittsburgh Steelers, Tennessee Titans, and Seattle Seahawks chose to stay in the locker room as a team during "The Star-Spangled Banner."
In Charlotte, questions arose as to what the Panthers and Saints would do after President Donald Trump said those who kneel during the national anthem "should be fired."
When it was time for kickoff, fans got their answer. The New Orleans Saints had a dozen or so players sit while the anthem was sung. The Carolina Panthers decided, as a team, that they would stand.
"We need to listen to the national anthem," Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said. "We need to think and envision an America that we believe in, that's free from injustice, that's free from bigotry, free from prejudice... and then, when you guys ask me, we tell you that."
One Panther, however, chose not to join the team on the sidelines. That was North Carolina sports legend Julius Peppers, back with his home team after years at other teams across the league. Peppers chose to stay in the locker room while the national anthem played... a decision he said he just felt he had to make.
"I know a lot of people might not understand it, a lot of people might be upset about it, and that's fine," Peppers said. "I'm not living my life up here trying to make everybody happy. I'm doing things that I feel like are right and things that I believe in. There's only a few times in a man's life where you have a chance to stand up for something that you believe in and make a statement. So, today, I thought that was that chance and I took it."
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, one of the biggest names in the NFL, was on the sidelines with his team. But he said he understands the reasoning behind the protest and that America has a long way to go to solve racial injustice.
"The truth of the matter is we can't just point the finger and point blame," Newton said. "That's the easy thing to do. But with my pinnacle, I promise to do things that will gain awareness and doing it in my own way."
Rivera made it clear to press, however, that Sunday was the last time he would publicly discuss this topic. He wants his team to focus on football and, after a bad 34-13 loss to the Saints, they'll need to as they travel to take on the New England Patriots next Sunday.
Video of these statements is posted at the top of this page.