CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey is partnering with linebacker Shaq Thompson in an effort to unite the Charlotte community through sports programs for underserved youth through the “22 Together” program.
They say their goal is to use sports as a vehicle to help address the divides that exist between the public and law enforcement.
The players say they will be working in partnership with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Police Activities League (PAL) and the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club of Greater Charlotte to offer football, flag football, and cheerleading programs free of charge to underserved youth in Charlotte.
The youth will be able to participate as soon as August and with the support and mentorship of coaches from Charlotte-Mecklenburg PD and other community leaders.
“With the support of Christian, Shaq and 22 Together, and partnering with the Boys and Girls Club, we can be united in our effort to reach more kids and, through them, have an even broader impact on our community, including for our officers who gain much from their experiences as mentors and coaches,” Major Tonya Arrington of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said in a release.
McCaffrey said right now it is important to make an effort to help the community work through the divisions that exist.
“Sports for me have always been a place for opportunity and for building a strong sense of team,” McCaffrey said. “It is a place where we can communicate values and begin building a more peaceful society. When we come together on a field of play, it helps unite us everywhere else.”
Thompson said when McCaffrey asked him to support the program it was “an easy decision.”
“This is exactly what our community needs right now,” Thompson said. “Something positive, uniting members of our community and police. This unity creates a bond and focuses on kids, so no kid feels left behind and suffers.”