CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Former Carolina Panther Thomas Davis is pledging $100,000 to help with a cause to bail out fathers for Father’s Day in Charlotte.
Davis made the announcement during a discussion about police reform and systemic racism hosted by Grammy-nominated artist and Charlotte native DaBaby on June 19.
The “Black Lives BEEN Mattered” event happened at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture on South Tryon Street in uptown Charlotte. Friday, which is also Juneteenth.
DaBaby was joined by Mecklenburg County Sheriff Garry McFadden, Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, Charlotte City Councilman Braxton Winston, former Carolina Panther Thomas Davis, Director of Mecklenburg County’s Criminal Justice Services Sonya Harper, Judge Elizabeth Trosch, ACLU organizer Kristie Puckett Williams along with others.
Puckett Williams is a Regional Field Organizer for the ACLU of NC’s Campaign for Smart Justice, advocating for bail reform.
During the discussion, Puckett Williams, who has participated in several protests, spoke about an effort on Saturday to bail fathers out of jail so they could be home for Father’s Day. Davis said he made this $100,000 commitment to help the cause because he knows how important it is for fathers to be there for their children growing up in the black community.
When it was time for Davis to speak, he discussed a moment during his rookie season with the Panthers where he was pulled over and handcuffed by police.
Davis said the arresting officer told him they saw a passenger of his car “throw a bag of dope out of the window.” Davis said at that time, he feared for his career and was worried police were going to plant drugs on him. Davis says he has never done drugs or alcohol. He said there are so many black people who go through these same situations - and professional athletes are not excluded.
Since that day, Davis said he has been about action and being a part of the solution, helping kids growing up the way he did in a single parent household. The Thomas Davis Defending Dreams Foundation was created to “assist youth in realizing that their past does not determine their future and that they too can one day live their dreams.”
Davis got very emotional as he continued to talk about doing what he can to help from a financial standpoint. Sheriff McFadden and Puckett Williams were also very emotional while thanking Davis.
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DaBaby organized this event as a call on elected city officials and community leaders to join him in the discussion for change.
“I had my own experiences with the police. It’s time to have a serious conversation about police reform and systemic racism in our city,” DaBaby said. “Black lives been mattered and will always matter.”
Billion Dollar Baby Entertainment organizers said the discussion will be centered around police reform, systemic racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement in North Carolina.
In Dec. 2019, CMPD launched an internal affairs investigation after DaBaby, whose real name is Jonathan Kirk, was cited for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and resist, obstruct and delay hours after he gave gifts to 200 local children for the holidays.
After he was cited, DaBaby told reporters he feels targeted when he comes to Charlotte. Local activists were also upset with the way CMPD officers treated DaBaby.
“Absolutely. Every time I come here, every time,” DaBaby said. “They follow me, they pull us over for no reason, they search our cars, they do everything. They treat us like animals.”
Will Adams with Team True Blue was handing out presents with DaBaby to families in need. He said the prior situation with CMPD would widen the chasm between the community and officers.
“As a community leader as we’re trying to instill love and hope back to the community and we’re trying to bridge the gap between the police and the community this type of stuff makes it hard,” Adams said.
Friday’s discussion aimed to address some of these issues with productive discussion surrounding community-police relations in Charlotte and the state of North Carolina.