City officials declared Sunday’s Panthers-Vikings football game an "extraordinary event." That meant lots of police downtown and extra security measures. There was a small protest, but most people welcomed the distraction after a week of unrest.
Parking lots around Bank of America stadium were full of tailgaters as fans prepared for the Panthers' second home game of the season. They came despite four days of protests downtown over the police killing of Keith Scott.
One fan, who gave his name as John, said he didn't want to miss the game he said it was a chance for unity.
“I think Sundays have their reputation of bringing people together, whether it's in church or sporting events or whatever. So it's a great opportunity to bring the community together, and all root for a common cause, and that's a Panther win,” he said.
Another fan, John Norman of Charlotte, had mixed feelings about the game itself - he was wearing a Panthers' shirt and a Vikings hat. He agreed with the other John.
“I think it's a great great day today, man, it's really … for everybody to come down .. .in harmony,” Norman said.
Kristel White and her family played cornhole in a parking lot, as they do before every game. "No different at all, probably the safest game of the year,” White said.
White said that as a native Charlottean she was sadden by the events last week.
“My heart breaks for the city, but we'll rise above,” White said.
Police and national guard lined streets leading to Bank of America Stadium, ready for any unrest. Many fans stopped to hug or thank the police as they walked into the stadium.
And yes, there were protesters, too.
A multiracial crowd of about a hundred people locked arms in a circle at an intersection across from the stadium. The crowd chanted "No Peace, No Justice" and the name of shooting victim Keith Scott.
Police on bicycles and ATVs and on foot surrounded the protest. Officers in riot gear stood by at a distance. And men with National Football League security badges watched the protest nervously, tapping on smart phones.
Some fans saw the protest. But many fans missed it, entering the stadium from a different direction. They were here for a game, which started with the National Anthem and fireworks.
Outside, protesters kneeled. Inside, no players kneeled, but Panthers safety Marcus Ball raised his fist.
There was a military jet flyover.
And then it was game time – just like any other Sunday at Bank of America stadium.