Unrest seems to be never ending across the United States of America these days, as citizens die at the hands of police officers and then peaceful protests often turn into violent riots.
That was the case in Charlotte, N.C. Wednesday night, where the Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to take on the Carolina Panthers Sunday. Citizens joined together to form a peaceful protest after an African-American police officer shot and killed an African-American citizen who was reportedly approaching him with a gun.
The peaceful protest eventually escalated into a riot and the governor of Carolina declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard to help control the situation.
There was some speculation that the NFL would move Sunday’s game between the Vikings and Panthers because of this, but after talking to both teams and local authorities, the NFL has decided to have it be played as scheduled, at least for now. While most players say it doesn’t bother them when surrounded by a group or reporters, some have discussed their concerns in private.
“The fact that we do have a situation where people are being hurt - cops, civilians, everybody - that’s definitely an issue,” veteran cornerback Terence Newman began. “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.”
There are a lot of things to look at when dealing with problems of police officers killing civilians. It is easy to say that the officers are in the wrong on every occasion because it’s hard to imagine killing someone ever being the answer, but Newman knows it is difficult to judge the situation unless you’ve experienced it first-hand.
Police offers have a dangerous job, maybe even more so these days when so many seem to be against them.
“People talk about an officer’s, what their duty is, but until you walk in an officer’s shoes, you really don’t know the things that go through a person’s mind, situations they may face,” he began. “There have been situations, I know, where a guy pulls a gun on a cop and shoots them. I’ve seen videos time and time again - routine traffic stops - so you would like to see a guy not have to die in a situation like that, but, at the same time, you don’t know what’s going through a cop’s mind. He may be fearing for his life in the situation, so it’s kind of a hard deal. For me to be able to speak on something like that, it would be tough because I’ve not been in a cop’s shoes.”
At the same time, though, he knows what it is like to be on the other side of things, to be an African-American living in the United States and having people look at him as though he is about to try to hurt them in some way, just because he is walking out in public. It’s something that he and some of his teammates have to deal with on a daily basis, even though they are just trying to live their day-to-day lives.
“I was just talking about how I live in Uptown and I go downstairs, go across the street to get some food and you might walk by somebody and they’re looking at you like you’re going to do something to them,” he explained. “So for me, that’s kind of, I get a chuckle out of it, but at the same time it’s like - this is 2016, we’re supposed to be past all that.”
His new teammate Ronnie Hillman, whom the Vikings recently signed, even told Newman a story about how he was in the airport and a women was looking at him with a concerned look on her face, as if he was going to threaten her in some way.
Newman went on to explain that Hillman tried to disarm the situation by greeting her, but she wouldn’t say anything in response. The veteran cornerback said that situations like those happen all the time, something that needs to be addressed in today’s society.
Player protests have been something that has become popular across the NFL this season, starting with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem. The protests have not happened on the Vikings’ sidelines yet, but it is clear they recognize the issues at hand.
Newman knows there are injustices going around on a daily basis, but also realizes there are two sides to every story.