Carolina Panthers officials are reportedly set to meet Thursday to discuss potential security issues ahead of Sunday's home game against the Minnesota Vikings, following protests in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area that are expected to continue into the weekend.
David Newton of ESPN reported that the protests, which came in response to the death of Keith Lamont Scott, an African-American man shot by a police officer Tuesday, have at times turned violent, with gunshots fired and instances of vandalism.
Team officials are expected to talk about whether the police presence will be large enough to keep the stadium safe on game day while also focusing on maintaining calm among the protesters, according to the ESPN report. Fox 46 Charlotte, citing sources, later reported that the Panthers and NFL are also talking about the possibility of moving the game from Bank of America Stadium.
Fox 46 Charlotte provided a statement from Panthers president Danny Morrison: "We are in contact with government officials, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department and the NFL. We are continuing to monitor events as we prepare for Sunday’s home game."
"We are planning to play the game as scheduled on Sunday," NFL PR representative Brian McCarthy said in a statement (via Tom Pelissero of USA Today). "We are monitoring events in Charlotte and have been in communication with local officials and authorities, and both the Carolina Panthers and Minnesota Vikings."
Newton noted that some businesses in the area have told employees not to attend work Thursday because of the continued unrest.
Katie Peralta of the Charlotte Observer reported that the NASCAR Hall of Fame was among the buildings looted Wednesday night. The New York Times' Richard Fausset and Alan Blinder also noted that the Charlotte Hornets' team store "had been broken into and gutted of merchandise."
Concerns about the game's status come at a time when police violence and racial injustice have become hot-button topics around the NFL. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem in the preseason, and others have since followed his lead.
In August, he explained the decision to take a public stand to Steve Wyche of NFL.com.
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Kaepernick said. "To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Panthers quarterback Cam Newton stated Wednesday that he wanted to learn more details about Scott's death before addressing the matter, per Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. He spoke more generally about the issue of police violence, though.
"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.
The Panthers and Vikings are scheduled for a 1 p.m. ET kickoff Sunday afternoon at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.