NFL to celebrate the league's internationally diverse roots with helmet initiative
When the National Football League played its first games in the Fall of 1920, all but on of its players were white and the climate for diversity and inclusion beyond the European spectrum was not even considered. Fritz Pollard was the lone symbol of diversity in the league. In fact, the league took steps to keep other brown men out of competition until the 1940's when Kenny Washington, Woody Strode, Bill Willis and Marion Motley made their way on to rosters with the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams.
As the NFL has seen its ranks become more diverse over the decades of its existence, the need to create a more inclusive environment has now become one the league's top priorities.
Part of those efforts includes the recognition of the influence that players with international roots, from all races and backgrounds, have had and continue to make on the game of American football.
During the player-led initiative for weeks 4 and 5 of the 2022 season, the NFL will partner with 200 players and coaches and executives to celebrate the growing ranks of nationalities and cultures that now make up the league.
Select players who have lived in their selected country or territory for two years or more, or have a parent or grandparent who were born there will display their respective international flags next to the American flag on their helmets. More than 50 nations and territories will be represented.
Coaches and other executives who will be participating, such as New England's Bill Belichick who will display a lapel pin representing Croatia, will don a lapel pin with their respective flags.
The Carolina Panthers will have five representatives on the roster who will display international flags on their helmets.
PLAYER NAME TEAM COUNTRY
- Ikem Ekwonu Carolina Panthers Nigeria
- Chuba Hubbard Carolina Panthers Canada
- Frankie Luvu Carolina Panthers American Samoa
- DJ Moore Carolina Panthers Jamaica
- Eddy Pineiro Carolina Panthers Cuba, Nicaragua
The select Carolina Panthers will get to display the flags of their respective countries for the home crowd at Bank of America stadium for games during week 4 and 5. All were proud to get the opportunity to do so.
Although born in the United States, rookie offensive lineman Ikem Ekwonu, whose parents hail from Nigeria, the African country's heritage is something that has been instilled in him since childhood. "I grew up eating all the Nigerian meals ...goat meat, Fu-Fu and everything I could," Ekwonu said.
"The one thing I cannot do is speak Ibo but that's a big goal of mine."
Frankie Luvu, who has made 15 solo tackles and caused one forced fumble this season, will wear the American Samoa flag on his helmet for the next two games to honor his country of origin. The Panthers' linebacker was born in Tafuna, American Samoa.
Luvu has always taken great pride in his Pacific-Islander heritage. Since coming to the Panthers organization, he's been know to infuse practice session with his traditional Siva Tau chant to the field to help get his teammates excited before drills.
Panthers' placekicker Eddy Pineiro will alternate between two flags over the next two weeks because of his parents being from two different countries. Pineiro's mother was born in Nicaragua while his father is from Cuba. "It's amazing seeing the league (NFL) do that," Pineiro said.
DJ Moore's father is responsible for his Jamaican heritage. While not totally immersed in the culture, Moore acknowledged heis working on participating more in that part of his family's culture.
The week 4 matchup for the Panthers is against the Arizona Cardinals at 4:05 p.m. ET
The team will host the San Francisco 49ers in week 5. The action kicks off at 4:05 p.m. ET. Check local listing for the broadcast in your area.