Maurkice Pouncey becomes 2nd Steeler to remove Antwon Rose Jr.’s name from helmet

A second Pittsburgh Steelers player has decided to cover the name of police shooting victim Antwon Rose, Jr., on the back of his helmet.

Steelers captain Maurkice Pouncey said he has he learned more about Rose’s death and decided to break from the team decision to wear his name on the back of their helmets for the NFL season.

“I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon, and I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy,” Pouncey wrote in an Instagram post Thursday. “I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety.”

East Pittsburgh police fatally shot an unarmed Rose, 17, in 2018 after the officers stopped the car he was riding in because it matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting.

Officer Michael Rosfeld opened fire on Rose when the teen and another passenger in the car began to flee, striking Rose three times in his back.

Investigators later linked the vehicle to the shooting, with another passenger in the car pleading guilty to opening fire during the drive-by, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported.

Rosfeld was charged with criminal homicide but was eventually acquitted. Rose’s family, which argued that the preceding incidents were irrelevant to the killing of an unarmed civilian, settled a civil rights lawsuit against the borough of East Pittsburgh for $2 million last year.

The Steelers announced Monday that it would be honoring Rose with the helmet gesture, though the team’s statement did not include specific details, including that the group’s car matched that of one used in a drive-by or that Rosfeld was acquitted in the shooting.

Steelers offensive lineman Al Villanueva, a former Army Ranger, was the first player to break from the decision to highlight Rose’s killing, opting to instead to bear the name of Army Sgt. 1st Class Alwyn Cashe, a black soldier who was killed on duty in Iraq, on his helmet for the team’s first game Monday night.

Steelers president Art Rooney II issued a statement Thursday saying he would support players’ individual decisions on the helmet tribute.

“As an organization, we respect the decisions of each player, coach and staff member relating to how to express themselves on social justice topics,” Rooney said. “We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country.”

Rose’s mother, Michelle Kenney, said she was initially disappointed and angered to read that players were removing her son’s name from their helmets, but said she realized Pouncey shared the same goal for police reform, she told the Tribune-Review.

In his Instagram post, Pouncey expressed support for social justice initiatives.

“But when I read to the bottom of [Pouncey’s statement],” she said, “I was a little more optimistic because I said, ‘It seems like we have some things in common.’ We want to work toward this being a better community, and obviously he thinks that policing is an issue.”

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