Jerry Richardson, players meet to talk 'social issues'

A group of Carolina Panthers players met with team owner Jerry Richardson on Tuesday to discuss "social issues affecting the league and solutions moving forward," the team announced in a statement.

"Mr. Richardson invited captains and other team leaders to his home this afternoon, as he often does," the statement read. "They discussed social issues affecting the League and solutions moving forward. As always, the conversations between Mr. Richardson and the players will remain private."

News of the meeting followed a Tuesday morning report from the Charlotte Observer that a group of players were upset that Richardson's "strongly held beliefs do not allow them to join the growing protests around the NFL."

President Trump stated at a political rally in Alabama last Friday that team owners should fire players who fail to stand for the national anthem prior to games.

The Panthers confirmed all six captains (Cam Newton, Greg Olsen, Thomas Davis, Luke Kuechly, Ryan Kalil, Kurt Coleman) attended Tuesday's meeting, but would not specify which other team leaders were present.

Defensive end Julius Peppers, who rejoined the team this offseason after previously playing eight seasons in Carolina, was the lone Panthers player to not take part in the national anthem before Sunday's home game against the New Orleans Saints. Peppers remained in the locker room during the anthem and took the field after "The Star-Spangled Banner" ended.

"I want to get one thing clear," Peppers told the Observer on Sunday. "This was not about disrespecting the military, disrespecting the flag, police, first responders, none of that.

"It was about me making a decision as a man on my own two feet. (And I) don't want to ask someone else to do anything for me. I just thought it was appropriate to stay in because we know what went on this week with the comments that were made by the President. I felt like he attacked our brothers, my brothers in the league.

"So I felt like it was appropriate to stand up with them and stay in the locker room."

Richardson issued the following statement Monday:

"We are proud of the men we have on this football team. Our players have been active and impactful participants in making our community stronger. From the first time I stepped into an NFL locker room at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore in 1959, I have lived and seen the sport's ability to bring people of all backgrounds together. Politicizing the game is damaging and takes the focus off the greatness of the game itself and those who play it."

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