On Monday the Pittsburgh Steelers announced that all of the team’s players will be wearing a helmet decal this season, one that honors the memory of a 17-year-old boy who was shot and killed by East Pittsburgh Police in 2018.
His name was Antwon Rose Jr., and as Teresa Varley of Steelers.com tells it, Rose, who was black, was a passenger in a car pulled over by the police on the night of June 19, 2018—a car that matched the description of a vehicle reportedly involved in a drive-by shooting.
Fatal Shooting Recorded on Cell Phone Video
“While the driver was being handcuffed on suspicion of being involved in an incident that happened earlier that evening, a frightened Rose fled from the car,” relates Varley. “The cell phone video a bystander captured showed Rose running, and then you [can] hear gunshots and see as he was fatally shot in the back three times by a white East Pittsburgh Police officer.”
Never mind that Rose had what his mother Michelle Kenney says was a “positive relationship” with the police, as she “spent more than a decade working for a nearby police department in an administrative role,” notes Varley. “There were [also] police in his family, including Kenney’s father, an officer for more than 35 years in another jurisdiction.”
“Antwon didn’t have a fear with the police until he had a negative engagement with the police on a traffic stop my daughter had where she got a ticket and they put a gun to his head,” Kenney told Varley. “That changed his perception. At 16 years old he was scared. Scared enough that he didn’t know what else to do but run.”
Mike Tomlin Called Michelle Kenney
Fast forward to last week, when Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin called Michelle Kenney to tell her that the team was planning to wear Antwon Rose Jr.’s name on the back of their helmets and hats for the entire 2020 season.
“I can’t explain it,” Kenney told Varley, trying to relate what it was like to get that phone call. “It was indescribable. It’s my son…. How do you even make sense of that? I wish I could give you some adjective to explain, but I can’t do anything but cry. I can’t do anything but cry.”
According to Kenney, Tomlin told her that the decision to wear the decal honoring her son came by way of a team vote. He also told her that he has two sons and that he worries for them too.
“He told me he worries about his kids,” Kenney said to Varley. “My thought was if he is worried about his kids, then everybody has to worry.”
Kenney also takes care to note that her past and ongoing relationship with members of law enforcement give her hope she can help bridge the gap between police and minority communities.
“There are some great cops out there. I have friends who are cops,” said Kenney. “We talk. They call me. I call them. They showed up at Antwon’s funeral. They aren’t all bad. [But] I don’t think the kids know that. I think if the kids could see what I saw when I was working there, things would be different. But I don’t think they see these kids as just kids and the kids don’t see them as good cops.
“When you think about Antwon Rose’s story, we don’t want to ever let his legacy go away,” Steelers captain Cameron Heyward told Steelers.com. “That kid had a bright future, and he was taken away too early. We see all of these things happening across our country now. This hit home.”
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