In the NFL, new Carolina Panthers defensive end Stephen Weatherly has largely been a rotational player during his first four years in the league with the Minnesota Vikings.
Off the field, Weatherly has brought so much more.
After signing with the Carolina Panthers on a two-year deal this offseason, Weatherly will have a chance to play an expanded role on defense but it also brings his platform for helping people to a new city in Carolina.
So far, that's been done by joining the Panthers Player Impact Committee, which Weatherly was also a part of in Minnesota.
Weatherly has used that platform to promote the Black Lives Matter movement and prevent racial social injustice issues.
"I feel like for a long type it's been a stereotype that there is only a handful of ways to make it out," Weatherly said about the stereotype that Black men receive of only being able to be successful by playing professional sports. "I feel like as someone that is successful not only in sports but also off the field, it's partly my job to show the next generation that you can succeed in multiple different ways. It feels like that's the only way until you show the next generation that there are different ways."'
Weatherly was a member of the Fulton County Youth Commission in Georgia, which was designed to address youth issues, so he is no stranger in using his platform to help others.
Earlier this summer when the country was at the height of Black Lives Matter protests following the death of George Floyd, Weatherly told reporters on a Zoom call that he realized he doesn't have to be Black or a football player and that he can be both.
“I don’t have to choose anymore... I can be both (black and a football player),” Weatherly said. “I can go out and get these numbers on the field and do what I can to help bring back a championship, but then also express my grievances as a black man. Neither of those two should interfere with the other, and it feels good and allows me to play free or allows me to play less stressed, which in turn, makes me a better football player.”
On Tuesday, Weatherly expanded on that in his first media availability since, saying he will wear a social decal this season.
"The one I will wear is a variation of 'Black Lives Matter' but put 'All Black Lives Matter'," Weatherly said. "Especially given my standing and where I am in the community, often times when I'm met with people, my life has been validated because of what I do. I'm a professional athlete and play for the Carolina Panthers, people see value and worth in me as an individual. But when people don't know what I do for a living I get treated differently. It shouldn't take what someone does or for when you learn who they are, to be treated fairly. And that's something I want to echo. "
But to create that change, Weatherly says you have to vote. And the Panthers have already stepped up in that regard with a "Your Vote Counts" initiative, allowing the public to vote early at Bank of America Stadium.
“You can't have long-lasting change unless you have legislation that reinforces that or protects your rights," Weatherly said. "That's why it's important to me. It took me way too long to learn that and now I have and I think it's important for other people to know that as well. For the Panthers to also feel the same way and to help us get out there and get everyone in the Carolinas the importance of voting, really speaks a lot for the organization."