Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton reluctantly waded into matters of race relations and social justice Wednesday, a day after an officer-involved shooting in Charlotte led to violent protests that included injuries to 16 policemen, fires set in the middle of I-85 and looting at a Walmart.
Newton said he wanted to learn more about the killing of Keith Lamont Scott in the University City area north of Charlotte and the protests that followed.
But Newton decried the spate of police violence across the country, including the 2013 death of Jonathan Ferrell, a black man who was shot and killed by Randall Kerrick, a white Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer. Kerrick’s case ended in a mistrial last year.
“It could’ve happened in Atlanta. It could’ve happened in Los Angeles. It doesn’t matter. It’s embarrassing for things to just keep happening,” Newton said.
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“And from what I do know, we had an incident that happened in 2013 that had something to do with the police. And it went to jury and whatever, got washed away in time. My big thing is always holding people accountable, no matter what the race is, no matter what the gender is. We all have to hold each other accountable.”
Newton said his “heart mourns for the family” of Scott, 43, who was shot about 4 p.m. Tuesday after he ignored officers’ requests to drop his handgun, according to police.
A woman who said she is Scott’s daughter said on a live-streamed video that Scott was unarmed, sitting in his car reading a book. The video, viewed more than half a million times, has elevated the incident to a national stage.
Newton has tried to steer clear of race debates in recent months. He said in a GQ interview last summer: “I don’t want this to be about race, because it’s not. ... We’re beyond that. As a nation.”
Newton said Wednesday he’s in a lose-lose situation if he addresses topics of racial politics.
“I’m in a position now where if I say something, it’s going to be critiqued and if I don’t say something, ‘Oh, you fake or you flaw,’” he said. “I’m a firm believer of justice. I’m a firm believer of doing the right thing. And I can’t repeat it enough of just holding people accountable.”
Newton said he respects the stance taken by San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.
“But I also can make a stand in my own right,” Newton said. “That’s why I have a foundation and I’ve been trying to do any and everything to bring the city of Charlotte or wherever that I’m around and can impact it in a positive way. And I’m hoping people will see that and do the same thing.”
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