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Each Monday, Tommy Tomlinson delivers thoughtful commentary on an important topic in the news. Through these perspectives, he seeks to find common ground that leads to deeper understanding of complex issues and that helps people relate to what others are feeling, even if they don’t agree.

No 'Bull-Dingie': Panthers Owner Distinguishes Himself In Supporting Player Protests


The Carolina Panthers made a strong statement in Sunday’s victory over Cincinnati. Another strong statement was recently made by the Panthers’ new owner that stood out to WFAE’s Tommy Tomlinson for several reasons.

I want to reach back for a second to something that got overlooked a bit because of all the stories leading up to Hurricane Florence. It was an interview that David Tepper, the new owner of the Carolina Panthers, gave to CNBC. He’s a regular on CNBC as the president of his hugely successful hedge fund, Appaloosa Management. But this time around the hosts wanted to ask him about something else: the NFL players who have taken a knee at games during the national anthem.

You probably know that NFL owners are a conservative group. Many of them have taken a hard stand against players kneeling during the anthem. Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys’ owner, created a team rule that every player has to stand. President Trump said players should be fined or fired if they don’t stand. But Tepper has a different point of view.

"That was the biggest pile of bull-dingie ever. These (NFL players) are some of the most patriotic people and best people. These are great young men. So to say that – it just makes me so aggravated and angry. It’s just wrong. It’s just dead wrong. It’s not that anybody’s unpatriotic."

He then led the CNBC host through a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, leaning hard on the words “liberty and justice for all.”  

I have so many thoughts about this interview.

One, Tepper had already called President Trump “that red-headed guy in DC” and “Howdy Doody.”

Two, before that moment, I had never heard the word “bull-dingie.” Tepper is from Pennsylvania. Maybe that’s Pennsylvanian for BS.

Three, that whole Pledge of Allegiance thing made me giddy at the prospect that the owner of Charlotte’s NFL franchise is not only naturally outspoken, but might also be delightfully weird.

And four, it’s refreshing to hear a rich white guy who understands the players’ main point.

The kneeling players, led by Colin Kaepernick, were protesting police shootings and racial inequality in America. They did that in a very American way: By protesting in a public place, in a provocative way that they knew would get attention. It’s an American tradition that goes back to before we were officially Americans. What was the Boston Tea Party but a public protest that was bound to tick people off?

The Pledge of Allegiance is about loyalty to our country, but it’s not blind loyalty. In fact, the very idea of America is that it only works if we walk around with our eyes wide open. Understanding our flaws, and working on them, is how our country gets better. By the way, it’s also how a football team gets better.

All this made me think of something. I sure don’t want Cam Newton, the Panthers’ star quarterback, to get hurt. But he runs more than the average quarterback, and so he takes more hits. The Panthers’ backup is a guy named Taylor Heinicke. You can be forgiven for not knowing his name. He has thrown exactly one pass in a real NFL game.

Colin Kaepernick, who is clearly good enough to be on an NFL roster, has been without a team for more than a year. It’s not hard to come up with a scenario where Cam goes down and the Panthers have to decide whether to sign the NFL’s most controversial quarterback. That might be quite the test for the Panthers and David Tepper. Because sometimes words aren’t enough.

Tommy Tomlinson’s commentaries appear every Monday on WFAE and WFAE.org. They represent his opinion, not the opinion of WFAE. You can respond to his commentaries in the comments below. You can also email Tommy at ttomlinson@wfae.org.