SPARTANBURG, S.C. (AP) _ NFL Most Valuable Player Cam Newton and some of his Carolina Panthers teammates took a break from training camp to remember the victims of last year’s Charleston church shootings.
Newton, along with fellow co-captions Luke Kuechly, Thomas Davis, Ryan Kalil, Greg Olsen and Charles Johnson visited a local museum in Spartanburg, South Carolina on Monday night to view artist Dr. Leo Twiggs’ paintings that honor the victims of the shootings and those who rallied behind the church and the victims’ families in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The series of nine paintings is called “Requiem for Mother Emanuel” after the church where nine people were killed on June 17, 2015. The paintings are currently on display at The Johnson Collection art gallery just minutes from where the Panthers are holding training camp.
“It takes you back to that day when you heard the news and what you were doing, knowing how tragic it was and knowing there were a lot of people whose lives have been changed in one instant,” Davis said. “He did a phenomenal job of capturing that.”
Panthers coach Ron Rivera, who attended the gallery along with assistant coach Steve Wilks, called the gallery a “powerful statement.” He felt that with his players representing the Carolinas it was something they needed to see.
“It really is a tremendous piece,” Rivera said.
The Panthers took a vested interest following the shootings.
Newton traveled to Charleston to meet with the families of those killed in the shootings and help in the healing process. Panthers owner/founder Jerry Richardson donated $100,000 to the victims’ families to help cover burial costs and to build a memorial in the city.
“Based on what has happened in our society today that type of a statement was important for us to make,” Rivera said. “You could see the impact that the exhibit was making on the guys and the expressions as the curator at the art gallery was talking about each piece individually.”
Davis said each of the players had different interpretations of the paintings. For Davis, who is African-American, the depiction of the Confederate flag in the paintings really struck home.
“That stood out to a lot of us,” Davis said. “… I think it was powerful for the state to actually take that flag down because of what it represented.”
Davis said the exhibit helped put things in perspective for players.
“It makes you take a closer look at it,” Davis said. “It makes you dive deeper into what happened and why it happened and what was able to come out of it.”