CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Outside Bank of America Stadium Thursday night, several dozen people took a knee in protest before the Panthers game.
Protesters told Channel 9 reporter DaShawn Brown they were doing it on behalf of NFL players who were ordered not to protest.
Beforehand, Bishop Kevin Long, of Temple Church International, said he and other church and community leaders were going to kneel at Mint and Graham streets an hour before kickoff to protest racial inequality and police brutality against minorities.
Long said the protest is not a protest of the flag or the national anthem, and he hopes players can continue to use their status to bring about change.
"We as citizens, as CMPD and as the Carolina Panthers can work together to bring some sort of healing to this community,” Long said.
Protesters said they are using what may be the Panthers’ biggest stage to make a statement.
“This is considered one of the biggest games of the year,” Long said.
With the Panthers playing in prime time, their message will ring the loudest.
“To let America know we are not compelled to take a stand for a country that does not take a stand for us,” Long said.
With fists raised, and on one knee, dozens let their signs do the talking.
Organizers said they kneeled against what they called injustice.
“The disproportionate number of black and brown people that are being gunned down by law enforcement,” said Hector Vaca, of Action NC, who is a spokesperson for Reuben Galindo's family.
Along with Galindo's spokesperson, Jonathan Ferrell's cousin was in attendance.
Both Galindo and Ferrell were killed in Charlotte during an officer-involved shooting.
Several fans who noticed the crowd quickly reacted to what they saw.
Some were in favor of the protest, but others were not.
“I think that's their right,” Raheel Sharif said. “I'm proud that they use their platform to voice their opinion because they do have a platform a lot of people don't.”
“They have their right because millions of people died to give them their right to do that,” said Darren Mims, a counter-protester. “They're disrespecting them, not necessarily the flag.”
Kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner" has become a political platform in Washington, D.C.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., supported Vice President Mike Pence's decision to leave an Indianapolis Colts game.
Pence said he left that game after some members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the playing of the national anthem.
"So I hope the NFL can rally around the idea that standing respectfully for the national anthem is not inconsistent with pursuing social justice,” Graham said. “It's not inconsistent with the idea that America is a flawed place.“
Cox Media Group