Carolina Panthers head coach Matt Rhule wants athletes to use their voices to support social change, he said Wednesday as he addressed racism and the protests across the United States after George Floyd was killed in police custody last week.
"I want to have a team full of men who know their purpose in life is not just to play football," Rhule said, according to Panthers.com's Myles Simmons.
Rhule added, "If you want to fix this, you can't fix it from one side," according to Will Kunkel of FOX 46. "We need to have a discourse. And I know as a white man sometimes it can be daunting to talk about issues like racism. To be quite honest, we can sometimes be fearful that if we say the wrong things that we can be seen in a way that we don't really feel, but we have to step up."
The Panthers' new head coach said it's time for "fundamental change."
"I can't shy away from this moment," he said, according to Jason Huber of WFNZ. "I don't think anyone can shy away from this moment. It is time for a fundamental change in our societies and time for a fundamental change in how we do things. I certainly don't have all the answers."
Rhule wasn't the only NFL coach this week to address racial and social injustice.
"It's 400 years ago," Houston Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said Wednesday, according to ESPN's Sarah Barshop, alluding to slavery. "It's segregation. It's police brutality. It's not equal opportunities. It's so much deeper. ... And we have to stand with the black community."
The Texans are canceling their virtual meetings on June 9 to allow players to attend Floyd's funeral. O'Brien is planning to attend.
Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said he wanted to acknowledge "a social blind spot that either I was unaware of or chose not to see" and stated that he'd learned a lot from listening to players over the previous two days in team meetings.
"Leaders are prepared. Leaders take decisive action and inspire a group of people towards a common goal," Vrabel said Tuesday, according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans' website. "That common goal is inclusion, diversity, equality, opportunity. So, on behalf of the Tennessee Titans ... we want to support and will continue to help lead our players as we work towards that common goal."
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll recognized the importance of quarterback Colin Kaepernick's demonstrations in 2016. Kaepernick kick-started NFL protests against police brutality and racial inequality by at first sitting and then kneeling during the U.S. national anthem.
"I think it was a big sacrifice, in the sense that a young man makes," Carroll said on the podcast "Flying Coach," according to Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times. "But those are the courageous moments that some guys take and we owe a tremendous amount to him, for sure."
Carroll also called the current protests "an extraordinary demonstration that we need to see," urged schools to do more to teach the history of racism, and said white Americans "can't live with an oblivious way of looking at this."