Chancellor Lee Adams is a beautiful young man with a smile that could light up a room. He is 16 years old and lives with cerebral palsy. His grandmother, Saundra Adams told the Charlotte Observer with pride, “[Now] He’s able to feed himself some. He’s able to dress himself with minimal assistance. And the biggest thing is he’s able to walk.”
The cerebral palsy occurred after he was delivered ten weeks early, his face blue due to lack of oxygen. But his birth wasn’t “premature.” It was by a cesarean performed on the lifeless body of his mother Cherica Adams, who was murdered earlier that night. Cherica Adams was one of two targets that night, the other being Chancellor Lee. Four men, including Chancellor’s father, Carolina Panther wide receiver Rae Carruth, planned the killing. This was Carruth’s way of attempting to avoid paying child support. The only reason they were caught—and the only reason Chancellor Lee Adams is alive—is because Cherica Adams somehow called 911 and identified her killers with her last breath.
Of the four people involved in the shooting, three have apologized to Chancellor and his grandmother Saundra Adams. Rae Carruth, still serving his 18-year sentence, has not.
Rae Carruth’s act was an extreme example of issues that have plagued the NFL—violence against women, gun culture and the entitlement that comes with stardom. But his case stands out. Rae Carruth presents as a true sociopath. His actions were so monstrous that they are rarely, if ever, revisited. Even at the height of the discussion about violence against women in 2014, after video of then-Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancée was released, Rae Carruth’s name was rarely raised. Comparing Rice’s action to Carruth’s was deemed out of bounds even for those who believed Rice should never play again.
Yet this week, Rae Carruth was mentioned for the first time in recent memory by an NFL executive—as a point of comparison to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who remained seated during the national anthem to protest police violence.
As NFL veteran journalist Mike Freeman wrote on Bleacher Report:
(Front office executives] sympathetic to Kaepernick’s stance) seem to be far outnumbered by the members of NFL front offices who despise him. Truly, truly hate him. “I don’t want him anywhere near my team,” one front office executive said. “He’s a traitor.” One executive said he hasn’t seen this much collective dislike among front office members regarding a player since Rae Carruth.
Of course, fake tough guys that these NFL executives are, they only gave their comments to Freeman on condition of anonymity. To equate a silent act of protest against police violence with the murder of a pregnant woman is upsetting enough. But even if you don’t agree with Kaepernick’s actions and politics—and I do—this kind of moral calculus should be deeply disturbing to every player and fan and the NFL Players Association. These comments offer a window into how these NFL executives think. How seriously can they possibly take violence against women if they would equate the killing of Cherica Adams with Colin Kaepernick making a political stance? How seriously do they take the police violence that so many NFL players—68% of whom are African American—care about, if they would say that Colin Kaepernick is as toxic as someone who would have his pregnant girlfriend shot?
This world is divided by the cowardly and the courageous. Rae Carruth is a coward. Chancellor Lee and Saundra Adams are courageous. The late Cherica Adams was beyond courageous, saving her son with her last breath. I know on which side of that line these anonymous NFL executives stand. I also know where Colin Kaepernick stands.
For those not sure whether to support Kaepernick, when in doubt, stand with the brave.