NFL players are permitted to wear decals on their helmets this season in honor of victims of systemic racism. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers have decided to unite and all wear the same name on their helmets this season: Antwon Rose Jr.
Antwon Rose Jr. was a passenger in a vehicle that was pulled over in the summer of 2018 by the East Pittsburgh Police. The police were responding to reports of a drive-by shooting that had occurred earlier that night. Rose, a Black young man, fearfully ran from the police stop. A bystander recorded the incident on their cell phone and captured a police officer shoot Rose in the back three times, taking his life. According to his mother, Michelle Kenney, Rose had grown up having a positive relationship with the police as she had worked for them and there are officers in their family.
When the NFL announced that the players were permitted to wear decals on their helmets, the Steelers took a vote to wear Antwon's name on theirs. His mother was flooded with emotions when Steelers coach, Mike Tomlin, called to give her the news.
Coach Tomlin, who is Black, told her that he worries about his kids, too. It sounds like this had a big impact on her, hearing that this man who somehow seems bigger than the rest of us because he coaches a professional football team has to worry about his kids too. It is heartbreaking that there are parents who have to worry every time their child leaves about if they will come back alive because of a nation built on systemic racism.
Kenney is grateful that the entire Pittsburgh Steelers team stands behind her son and will defend his name. She wants to help save other kids and bridge the gap between these cops that do not see Black children as they see other children and the Black children that are afraid of cops.
While there may be a backlash by the white supremacists of our nation, Kenney is hopeful that the players can use their platforms to spark change and get their followers to listen and understand.
This past Monday, September 14, the Steelers wore their helmets for the first time against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. They also stood together with a banner that read, "Steelers Against Racism." They sent a powerful message on Monday and told Rose's story, and they will continue to do so for the remainder of the season.