CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers team captains and other selected players met with owner Jerry Richardson at his home Tuesday to “discuss social issues affecting the league and solutions moving forward.”
Carolina spokesman Steven Drummond said the conversations between the players and owner will remain private.
Richardson was one of the last NFL owners to release a statement in response to comments made by President Trump on Twitter regarding NFL players. The meeting was prompted by some players privately expressing frustration over not being able to express their views on social issues while playing for the Panthers for fear of potential repercussions.
A year ago, backup safety Marcus Ball raised his fist in support of Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protect social injustices. The following week he was released by the Panthers.
While hundreds of players around the NFL protested Trump’s tweets, none of Carolina’s players participated in pre-game protests on Sunday except 17-year veteran Julius Peppers. Peppers decided to remain in the tunnel for the national anthem, but told none of his teammates of his plan.
The 81-year-old Richardson prefers to keep politics and sports separate.
Even when he did release a statement on Monday — a day after 30 other owners had spoken out — it didn’t make much reference to Trump’s comments.
“We are proud of the men we have on this football team. Our players have been active and impactful participants in making our community stronger,” Richardson’s statement read. “From the first time I stepped into an NFL locker room at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in 1959, I have lived and seen the sport’s ability to bring people of all backgrounds together. Politicizing the game is damaging and takes the focus off the greatness of the game itself and those who play it.”
Richardson has remained largely private since his last press conference in January of 2011.
Peppers said Sunday he struggled with the decision to remain in the tunnel, but wanted to do something to support his NFL brothers.
He didn’t tell his teammates of his plans because he didn’t want others to feel pressured to do the same.
“I just thought it was appropriate to stay in because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the President and I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league,” Peppers said. “So I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room.”
Peppers said he knows that some may not appreciate his stance, even if he wasn’t trying to show disrespect to the American flag.
“A lot of people might be upset about it and that’s fine,” Peppers said. “I’m not living my life out there trying to make everybody happy. I’m doing things that I feel like are right and things that I believe in. There are only a few times in a man’s life where you have the chance to stand up for something that you believe in and make a statement so today I thought was that chance and I took it.”
Several teammates hugged Peppers before the team’s first defensive series.
When asked if he hoped an increase in demonstrations would increase dialogue about these issues, Peppers responded, “I hope so.”