The NFL still plans to play Sunday’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, despite violence and protests following a black officer shooting and killing a black man who reportedly had a gun in his hand as he approached the police officer who shot him.
The incident sparked protests and riots in Charlotte, with nine civilians and four police officers injured, according to the police.
“We are planning to play the game as scheduled on Sunday,” the NFL said in a statement released late Thursday morning. “We are monitoring events in Charlotte and have been in communication with local officials and authorities, and both the Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings.”
According to the Charlotte Observer, the Panthers want to keep the game in Charlotte but realize that another night of unrest could change that.
“That wouldn’t be a distraction,” Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson said. “That’s something going on in life and people trying to change things. If it happens, it happens. If they change the game, we’ll change. We’re just ready for whatever happens.”
Police made 44 arrests during the protests Wednesday night and spilling into early Thursday morning.
Buildings were damaged, including broken windows at the Charlotte Convention Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame and a breach that took place at the NASCAR Hall of Fame, according to news reports out of Charlotte.
“The fact that we do have a situation where people are being hurt – cops, civilians, everybody – that’s definitely an issue,” Vikings cornerback Terence Newman said. “We were just talking upstairs about when we get to Charlotte, like, ‘Are you going to go outside?’ People are like nervous are nervous and talking about that, so anytime you have an issue where you’re talking about a person’s safety you definitely have to take that to heart.”
A state of emergency was declared for the area and the National Guard was called in to provide security and protection.
Meanwhile, the Vikings are trying to keep their focus on Sunday’s game.
“My whole focus is being in the game plan and making sure I know what to do on my assignments and the new stuff that we put in,” running back Jerick McKinnon said.
“I don’t think it will affect us. Everybody who is in here is really focused. We have a lot to accomplish this year and it’s only Week 3. Everybody is tuned into the game this week.”