The Panthers got their meeting with team owner Jerry Richardson on Tuesday and according to Cam Newton, it was a "productive" one. Just don't expect Newton to reveal the exact details of what was said during the meeting.
On Wednesday -- three days after the Panthers players (except Julius Peppers) didn't join in on the widespread demonstrations during the national anthem, two days after Richardson released a statement in which he spoke out against "politicizing the game," and one day after cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said the team was afraid to protest -- Newton met with the media and fielded several questions about the Panthers' lack of a protest and their meeting with Richardson. You can read a complete transcript of Newton's press conference on the team's official website, but several of his responses are listed below.
First off, Newton called it a "productive meeting."
"We just wanted to meet with Mr. Richardson to discuss certain things that were on our mind and our hearts from different perspectives. The different people that were over there come from different backgrounds and have different views. One thing about it is that we agreed that everyone is entitled to their own thought process, so to speak. I feel as if a lot of what we talked about is confidential, but it was a very productive meeting."
Munnerlyn, who wasn't at the meeting, said players were told they don't need to be worried about facing repercussions in the future if they choose to protest.
Captain Munnerlyn said message from Jerry Richardson after meeting with players was players don't have to be worried about repercussions.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2017
Munnerlyn says it's good for the team owner to have your back.— Steve Reed (@SteveReedAP) September 27, 2017
But Newton wouldn't reveal what was said at the meeting, calling it all "confidential."
"Well, that's one of the things that's confidential. I don't want to be the person -- one of many that were there –- I don't want to speak out, but it was extremely productive and a step in the right direction for us as an organization."
He also tried to explain why they didn't protest on Sunday -- like most NFL team did:
"Well to be honest, if we would have came together and spoke about it, I believe I would have done something. But one thing I don't want to do is make an irrational decision in the spur of the moment. Where I stand, I want to think about it and have reasoning and feel like I want to have action into it. But it wasn't about doing anything this Sunday or not doing anything this Sunday. I feel as if it was too spur of the moment and didn't give us time to think about it. We had a team meeting the night before the game, and I'm one of those people that as the game gets closer, my tune-in level to outside things loses strength, so to speak. This is me personally. I heard about it -- I'm not going to sit up here and lie I didn't know what happened -- but me being dialed into the game, that's where my energy was. It didn't allow us to unite as a team and think this is what we're going to do. If we were to play on Monday or another day, we probably would have had something more together. That's how I feel."
So, will the Panthers protest next week? Newton wouldn't say.
"I just think you have to watch and see. But by no means we don't want to offend anybody. Nobody who has protested meant for it to be disrespectful to the United States flag or whatever demonstration or a protest that person had. It's just personal beliefs that individual believes in and with the amendments and U.S. bylaws, you have to give that person respect. Whether we agree with that person or not, they still have the right to feel a certain type of way. You just have to respect that."
And then he called Colin Kaepernick a legend (this isn't the first time Newton's spoken highly of Kaepernick):
"That's a legend right there. For him to think outside of himself, to raise awareness of something. We are 365 days removed from his initial stand, and now here we are still doing the same things. And now everybody is understanding what his reasoning was. I respect that."
Kaepernick began his protest against racial injustice last season by not standing up during the national anthem and pledging to donate $1 million to charities that support communities in need. Almost immediately, several players joined his movement. Even with Kaepernick unsigned as a free agent, his protest continued at the beginning of this season, with prominent players like Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett remaining seated during the national anthem.
The protest changed, though, this past Sunday after Donald Trump criticized NFL players who protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem and called for NFL owners to fire those players.
"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now," Trump said on Friday. "Out. He's fired. He's fired."
"You know, some owner is going to do that, he's going to say, 'That guy that disrespects our flag, he's fired,'" Trump continued. "And that owner, they don't know it -- they're friends of mine, many of them -- they don't know it, they'll be the most popular person for a week, they'll be the most popular person in this country, because that's a total disrespect of our heritage, that's a total disrespect of everything that we stand for."
In response, teams condemned his remarks, players criticized him on Twitter, members of the Dolphins wore shirts in support of Colin Kaepernick, some teams didn't even come out for the national anthem -- the demonstrations were widespread on Sunday. But the Panthers did not participate with the exception of Peppers, who remained inside the locker room for the national anthem, and Richardson didn't issue a statement until Monday.
In his statement, Richardson said "politicizing the game is damaging."
According to Joseph Person's of the Charlotte Observer, there was "mounting frustrations among some players who feel Richardson's strongly held beliefs do not allow them to join the growing protests around the NFL," hence the meeting on Tuesday. We'll see if the Panthers join in on the movement moving forward. On Sunday, the Panthers will play the Patriots in Foxborough.