Before Wednesday's practice at Panthers Training Camp, wide receiver Torrey Smith wore a t-shirt that has sparked some conversation and that is exactly what he and the other NFL players want to do.
"We want to try to continue to get the message across the right way without offending people and have them turn the message so we are really trying to control the narrative," said Smith after Thursday's practice in Spartanburg.
The front of the t-shirt reads hashtag "schools not prisons." The back of the shirt reads "nearly 5000 kids are in adult prisons and jails."
“We're trying to figure out ways to be positive, not to be a distraction, not to do anything that's going to be conflicting"https://t.co/Jp0lvaCelX— Carolina Panthers (@Panthers) August 1, 2018
"It had a fact and it wasn't made up," said Smith. "It's not something we just pulled out of nowhere, these are real issues that people deal with and battle with each and every day."
Controlling the narrative is key which is why a t-shirt was picked to get the message across.
"When you talk about the protest during the anthem it tends to get an emotional reaction out of people to where you don't listen to what's going on," said Smith. "When you do that to a t-shirt, didn't do anything, went out to practice, y'all saw it, we posted about it and now people are talking about a particular subject."
Smith has talked to new Panthers owner David Tepper about the issues players are making statements about and Smith feels a great deal of respect for Tepper.
"He genuinely cares," said Smith about Tepper. "And what he doesn't know, he is willing to learn. I think one added benefit to him is that he's from a community that he's seen a lot of the things that guys are talking. When he hears things, he's not surprised about it or he has seen it himself."
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