CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Thomas Davis said the Carolina Panthers’ game Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings should “absolutely” be played as scheduled, even with the city being under a state of emergency due to violent protests over a recent police shooting.
The All-Pro linebacker said football has a unique way of bringing people together and believes the game is something the community needs.
“If you take this game away I think it going to just continue to add to the stress and add to what is already going on in a negative way,” Davis said Thursday.
Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency in Charlotte on Wednesday night and has sent the National Guard and state troopers in to help restore peace after two nights of looting and rioting .
The NFL said it plans are for the game to be played as scheduled, although it will continue to monitor the ongoing violent protests that have gripped Charlotte.
Panthers president Danny Morrison said in a statement Thursday that the team is “in contact with government officials, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the NFL. We are continuing to monitor events as we prepare for Sunday’s home game.”
Davis isn’t alone in his belief that the game should be played.
Eight Carolina players questioned and coach Ron Rivera all said they believe the game should go on, although tight end Greg Olsen said his family may be more cautious on Sunday.
“My wife usually takes the kids uptown and they tailgate with family and friends, but we said maybe this week we should just come to the game, park in our lot and go up to your seats and get settled in,” Olsen said. “Is it worth moseying around in a town that is in such a heightened state of chaos?”
Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who played five seasons for the Panthers and still owns a home in Charlotte, said Thursday he’s a little nervous about coming home for the game.
“Right now I would be. It’s definitely out of control,” Munnerlyn said. “I might just go check on my house and head back to the hotel. Right now I’d definitely be worried. It’s kind of chaos down there right now and I hope this clears up soon.”
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said he has not paid attention to reports of the unrest in Charlotte and has been focused solely on game planning for matchup against the Panthers.
It has been impossible for the Panthers to ignore the events.
What began as a peaceful protest Wednesday night led to more rioting and looting downtown with one person shot and four police officers injured. The protests began after an African-American police officer shot and killed 43-year-old Keith Scott on Tuesday.
“What is going on in Charlotte right now is not the way to solve this problem,” said Davis, who is African-American. “When you go out and loot and riot, you stand a chance of more people getting injured and getting hurt — civilians and police. It’s not the way to go about things.”
Davis, the 2014 Walter Payton Man of the Year, has been with the Panthers for 12 seasons and is one of the most endeared players in the community.
He said seeing the images on TV the last two nights have caused him great pain.
“I had to explain to my boys that not all cops are bad cops, just like cops out there have to realize that not all African-American males are hoodlums and going out there and deliberately getting into trouble,” Davis said. “ … Police are here to protect and serve us, but at the same time someone has to be held accountable for what is going on.”
At least one Carolina player suggested he was considering joining Colin Kaepernick’s cause and staging a silent protest by kneeling for the national anthem before the game.
Safety Tre Boston, who has been outspoken about his thoughts on the police shooting on Twitter, said it’s something he will decide on in the coming days. He said he wants to talk to people and do more research before making a decision.
“You have to find a way you are not disrespecting people and that everybody understands where we are coming from, but at the same time you want to get your message across,” Boston said. “And sometimes it can feel disrespectful when you send your message across and somebody doesn’t believe in it. We’ll see.”
Davis said instead of just talking about the issue, he suggested athletes should do more.
“What we can do is get out in our community and connect with not only the people that we serve and work with in the community, but also really connect with the police officers and bridge the gap and create an ongoing relationship to help promote change,” Davis said.