- The Washington Times
Friday, September 18, 2020

Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey on Thursday became the third player to distance himself from the team’s decision to wear the name of Antwon Rose Jr., a Black teen who was fatally shot by police, on the back of their helmets.

Mr. Pouncey posted a statement on Instagram affirming his support for law enforcement and said he was “unaware of the whole story” surrounding Rose’s death before he agreed to wear his name on his helmet during Monday night’s game.

“I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon, and I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy,” Mr. Pouncey wrote. “I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety.”

Rose was killed by an East Pittsburgh officer as he fled a traffic stop in 2018. The officer was charged with criminal homicide and later acquitted.

On Monday, the Steelers announced that every player would wear a helmet decal honoring Rose.

“This year the NFL is allowing players to wear helmet decals to honor victims of systemic racism,” the Steelers website stated. “Players could select the name of an individual to wear on their helmet and the Steelers players and coaches united as one to wear a single name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season — Antwon Rose Jr.

Steelers tackle and former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva replaced Rose’s name on his helmet with that of deceased Army Sgt. Alwyn Cashe during Monday’s game. On Wednesday, linebacker Vince Williams publicly said there was no vote on the decision and that he did not even know whose name was going to be on his helmet, Trib Total Media reported.

Mr. Pouncey said in his statement that he would be making his own decisions about who to honor on his helmet moving forward.

“My work with the police, both in Pittsburgh and back home in Florida, is well documented,” he wrote. “I don’t always feel the need to highlight what I do with police departments, but I also want to make sure they understand I inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case. I take responsibility for not doing more investigating into something that is sensitive to the community and his family, but it is a lesson learned as it relates to political issues that occur every day in our society.

“Moving forward, I will make my own decisions about what to wear on the back of my helmet,” he continued. “Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is to continue helping repair relationships between the police and their communities. System racism issues have occurred in our country for too long, and that needs to stop. My focus will continue to be on helping the police in our communities, and I support making any necessary changes to help those efforts.”

Michelle Kenney, Rose’s mother, told ESPN she was disappointed Mr. Pouncey hadn’t reached out to her before making the statement.

“If he got to know me, he would understand that I am not anti-police,” she said Thursday night. “I’m actually an advocate for not defunding the police. … I actually want the relationship between the police and the community to be better. So based on part of his letter, we have some common ground here.

“I’m definitely with him that we need to make some changes so that we can establish better relationships between the police and the communities but there’s work to be done,” she added. “I would have much rather he reached out to me and said, ‘Ms. Kenney, I’m questioning my decision on wearing Antwon’s name. I’m choosing not to do it, but how can we move forward?’”

Rose’s family reached a $2 million settlement last year in a federal civil rights lawsuit against the borough of East Pittsburgh and the officer who shot Rose.

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