Should a Carolina Panthers player take a knee during the National Anthem before a game, it would be business as usual for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
The issue arises as more NFL players have decided to kneel during the playing of the anthem to protest racial inequality — particularly shootings of African Americans by police. The movement began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the playing of the anthem in the preseason, and has since spread across the league.
More than 20 players across eight teams have protested in some way during the first two weeks of the season, according to a tally from ESPN. Kaepernick and several of his teammates demonstrated while playing in Charlotte on Sunday.
The reaction has been heated in some NFL cities. Police union leaders in Santa Clara (where the 49ers play) and Miami have called for their departments to refuse to provide the traditional security for their city’s NFL team because of demonstrations by its players.
When asked by the Agenda what his response would be should a Panthers player take a knee, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney said he wouldn’t have one.
“I don’t get into the politics of it. Our officers are always trying to protect the rights of free society,” he said. “Players can demonstrate as they please.”
The issue is still a hypothetical in Charlotte since no Panther has yet decided to join the growing number of NFL players who are kneeling during the National Anthem.
Part of that may be because of how deep a meaning the anthem has for Coach Ron Rivera. He grew up on military bases as his father served a 32-year career in the U.S. Army.
“For the most part our guys know they’re supposed to stand at attention at the line,” Rivera said in August. At the same time, he recognized the importance of free speech.
“You have the right to do what you want to do. That’s what those men and women fought for and sacrificed for,” Rivera said in the August interview.
What would his specific response be should a Panthers player kneel during the anthem? “We’ll cross that bridge if it comes time,” Rivera said.
But should that time come, don’t expect much of a reaction from the CMPD police chief.
“I have my hands full with public safety,” Putney said.