Vikings game at Panthers will not be relocated from restless Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NFL decided Thursday not to relocate the Vikings' game Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., the latest U.S. city roiled by protests in the wake of fatal police shootings of African-American men.

Sep 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; A general view as storm clouds hover over the field at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 1, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; A general view as storm clouds hover over the field at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The NFL decided Thursday not to relocate the Vikings' game Sunday in Charlotte, N.C., the latest U.S. city roiled by protests in the wake of fatal police shootings of African-American men.

Many Vikings aren't sure what to expect.

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency Wednesday during the second straight night of violent protest in the wake of the fatal police shooting of a 43-year-old black man. One civilian was shot during protests Wednesday night and later died, and other civilians and police officers suffered injuries, as well.

"It's definitely out of control," said cornerback Captain Munnerlyn, who played for the Carolina Panthers from 2009-13 and owns a home in Charlotte. "I might just go check on my house and go right back to the hotel. Right now, I'd definitely be worried. It's kind of chaos down there right now. Hopefully it clears up soon."

The issue of race in America has been thrust back to the fore of public life, whether it's a troubling series of police shootings of unarmed African-Americans - including the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., this summer - or the proposed ban on Muslim immigration by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.


San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is on the cover of Time magazine this week because of his decision to kneel during the national anthem before games, to protest racial inequality in the United States.

Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot and killed by police in Charlotte on Tuesday, shortly after the fatal shooting of Terence Crutcher, 40, an unarmed motorist in Tulsa, Okla., last Friday. An officer in the Oklahoma incident was charged Thursday with first-degree manslaughter.

"It's embarrassing for things to just keep happening," Panthers quarterback Cam Newton told reporters on Wednesday.

Vikings cornerback Terence Newman spoke with teammates at length Thursday morning about race relations and his growing fears as a black American.

"I think we're moving toward a whole other civil rights war," he said. "Literally, black and white and Mexican and Asian. Everybody is going to be fighting each other."

Asked about his use of the word "war," Newman said, "I don't really know that a war could really happen ... but as far as protests becoming violent, yeah, we've already seen it. It could be like the riots in L.A. when the Rodney King situation happened. It's already becoming close to that. There have been some situations where cops have been injured, and civilians have been injured. That doesn't do anything for anybody."

The NFL explored moving Sunday's game between the Vikings and Panthers, but the plan is still to play at Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte.

"We are planning to play the game as scheduled on Sunday," the league said in a news release. "We are monitoring events in Charlotte and have been in communication with local officers and authorities, and both the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings."


Munnerlyn, who has family in Charlotte, watched the protests on television Wednesday night with his wife.

"We couldn't believe what was going on," he said. "We were like, 'Man, look at this. I know this area. I know what area they're in. I know the things they're tearing down.' "

Available NFL stadiums near Charlotte on Sunday include FedEx Field in Washington or Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. But Munnerlyn said the game could be a positive distraction in Charlotte.

"Football is definitely an escape for a lot of people," he said. "Not just for players, but for family and friends and people in the city to get away from their problems."

Some NFL players have followed Kaepernick's lead and used the national anthem to protest - some kneeling and some raising a fist - but no Vikings.

"I can respect it. I see it, and I commend those guys doing those type of deals," said Vikings defensive tackle Tom Johnson, who sued two Minneapolis police officers in federal court for violating his civil rights for the way he was treated in an October 2014 incident.

Johnson was Tasered and pepper-sprayed after police claimed he refused to leave a restaurant at closing time. He fought the charge and sued the officers in April. According to the Associated Press, the suit seeks unspecified damages in excess of $75,000 and an order for the police department to discipline the officers and change its stun-gun policies.

"I think Kaepernick is being creative in what he wanted to do and made a statement on his platform and made it be seen for people that aren't able to see these things," Johnson said.


Newman said he understands the protests but would rather see concrete solutions.

"The protest deal, that's cool if they want to do it, but I think simply doing it doesn't do (anything)," he said. "Come up with a solution, come up with ways that allow us to deal with the situation and move forward and get past it all."

This summer, protests over Castile's death were common throughout the Twin Cities, with some turning violent and one closing down Interstate 94. Newman said he has followed the protests in Charlotte and elsewhere, and said it's difficult to be optimistic about positive change.

"The way things are right now, it's going to be super hard with all the situations that have happened," he said. "I've walked down the street where I live (in Minneapolis) to go get food and I've seen people look at me like I was a threat. ... I walk not even a block away and they're looking at me like I'm some threat because I'm in sweatpants and a T-shirt going to grab some food. ... There are situations like that that happen all the time."

He said Vikings players are unusually tight and that race has been easy to discuss with all his teammates.

"We're all like brothers," Newman said. "There were white guys talking about the situation, black guys talking about the situation, we're all in it together. For us, it's easy. But when you go out of this, you're no different from anybody.

"But here, this is like our shelter. We know in here we're protected, but anywhere else it's no different from them. They go anywhere and who knows what violence is going to happen toward them?"

As for progress in race relations, Newman said he hasn't seen any.

"It's 2016, but 2016 is way worse off than it was in 2003," he said. "We're in a way worse spot than we were in 2003, I can guarantee you that."

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