Pittsburgh Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey is the second player on his his team to decide not to put Antwon Rose Jr.'s name on the back of his helmet for the season. Rose was shot and killed by police in 2018, after being stopped because a vehicle he was in fit the description of a car involved in a drive-by shooting. Rose was unarmed and was shot three times in the back, face and elbow.
This season Steelers decided to honor Rose, whose name has been used as a platform and example for creating reform and ending police brutality, by putting his name on the back of their helmets.
The gesture started as a team decision as a message of unity, but offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva was the first Steelers player to make the decision not to participate.
Pouncey released a long statement on the matter on Instagram, discussing his work with the police and tagging the Pittsburgh chief of police and police station as well as other stations in Florida.
"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. I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety ... 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."
Pouncey continued his message saying, "I also want to make sure [the police] understand I inadvertently supported a cause of which I did not fully comprehend the entire background of the case ... My focus will continue to be on helping the police in our communities, and I support making any necessary changes to help those efforts."
Villanueva, a former Army Ranger who has served three tours in Afghanistan, instead decided to wear to honor Alwyn Cashe, a veteran who died during the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2005.
Steelers president Art Rooney II says he is supportive of whatever decision the players make.
"As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics," he said. "We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country."
Rooney added, "Along the way, we understand that individually we may say or do things that are not universally accepted. There will be uncomfortable conversations. But we will strive to be a force for unity in our efforts to support a more just society."
According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Rose got out of the car and started running before officers opened fire. The person who was shot at in the drive-by told Pennsylvania State Police that Rose had fired at him from the car. Officer Michael Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide in the Rose shooting and later acquitted.