Panthers running back Reggie Bonnafon is from Louisville, and of Louisville.
So for him, walking in marches, picking up trash after protests which might have been less than peaceful, speaking to crowds, and listening to local leaders is in his blood.
Bonnafon told Alaina Getzenberg of the Charlotte Observer that his connection to his hometown made this a difficult time for him, and made him want to stay and work.
The city has been rocked by a number of incidents, including the shootings of EMT Breonna Taylor by police, and the death of local barbecue chef David McAtee when shots were fired during a protest.
“It’s really, really, really really personal for me and it’s something that I just feel obligated to do, like crazy enough it’s deeper than even me,” Bonnafon said. “My grandfather has been the only African American fire chief for the city of Louisville. He was appointed that job in like the early 70s. It just lets you know the climate, how it is in Kentucky.
“I can only speak on where I’m from, what I experienced. I found out that it’s a lot different than a lot of my friends, a lot of my teammates, a lot of people. Kentucky is just one of those states that kind of has struggled with accepting everybody, especially where I’m from it is a very high population of African Americans mixed with a lot of different other races. There’s a lot of things built up over time, just like across the whole country, even in Louisville got fed up with.”
Bonnafon has often been with Falcons guard (and former Louisville teammate) Jamon Brown during the last two weeks, as they’ve helped as they could.
“It’s a fight that we all are facing. I’ve been here in Louisville in my hometown, which is the same place Muhammad Ali was born. It’s really deep,” Bonnafon said. “I’m pretty calm, pretty chill, pretty quiet, but I don’t know. After seeing so much go on and seeing some of my friends actually put their bodies on the line literally to grab attention from our councilman, things like that, I had to step in and use my voice as well, because we needed to be heard from and make things happen. . . .
“Everybody kind of has some different views. It’s just time to update the system. We spend a lot of time updating our iOS, iPhones and things like that, but it would be foolish of us not to update our minds and the way we think about things as well. I feel like this is a time where our country is going through a little adversity so we can grow.”
And for his part, he’s starting in his hometown.