One thing Panthers head coach Ron Rivera made clear in September was how politics and football do not mix.
However, according to Joe Person of The Charlotte Observer, Rivera being one of just three Latino head coaches, felt he had to speak out against President Donald Trump’s immigration policy. Specifically, his “pledge to make Mexico pay for the wall he wants to build along the border.”
“I think people have to understand that whatever the President’s trying to do, whatever he’s trying to get across, it is really not about what he’s saying. But it’s about how we react and how we do things,” Rivera told CNNMoney’s Ahiza Garcia in an interview.
In Person’s article, he highlights Rivera’s accomplishments, including being the first player of Puerto Rican and Mexican descent to make the NFL after the Chicago Bears drafted him in the first round in 1984.
“There’s a group of people that are trying to make better lives for their families and that’s what it really should be about. And I think what everyone has to understand more so than anything else is that what’s America’s foundation is built on,” Rivera said. “And we can’t block people out because of that.”
Rivera mentions he had never felt racism in the NFL, but did have a teammate at Cal who used racial slurs towards him saying, “he was supposed to be a teammate, and that stuck in my mind.”
He also believes Panthers quarterback Cam Newton feels added pressure to perform because of the color of his skin.
“I have an African-American quarterback and I do think he feels it because he wants to be successful,” Rivera said. “Because he most certainly at the end of the day does want to present that you can be successful as an African-American playing quarterback.
“I struggle with that because at the end of the day it really should be about your merit.”