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5 Things to Know: Democratic State Lawmakers Aim to Codify Roe

...and four more stories from Jan. 22-27, 2023

A woman stands in a crowd holding a sign supporting abortion rights that reads, "Not your body, not your life, not your choice.:"
Pro-choice protesters gathered outside of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. Democratic lawmakers introduced legislation to codify Roe in state law this week. (Photo by Justin LaFrancois)

NC Democrats Introduce Legislation to Codify Roe

North Carolina House Democrats on Wednesday filed legislation to codify the recently overturned protections of Roe v. Wade in North Carolina, aiming to enshrine those protections into state law. The bill comes as Republicans are planning to introduce an abortion ban that would take away those rights and freedoms.

The Democrats’ bill isn’t expected to make it far in the Republican-controlled state legislature, just as the Republicans’ abortion ban isn’t expected to make it past the governor’s desk, but Democrats have said their attempt to codify Roe serves as a statement of the party’s values. 

“At the start of this legislative session, this bill is a statement of values and a promise to women across this state that Democrats will always protect their freedoms and fight to keep politicians out of these personal decisions,” stated NCDP Chair Bobbie Richardson.

N.C. Rep. John Autry of District 100 in Charlotte co-sponsored House Bill 19, titled “Codify Roe and Casey Protections.” In a release on Thursday, Autry stated, “”All bans on abortion care, regardless of at what point in pregnancy they target, amount to the government taking control of another person’s body and interfering in private medical decisions. That’s why I’m proud to join the rest of my caucus as a co-sponsor of HB-19.”

Team Pays Tribute to Anton Walkes

Fans, players and team officials gathered in front of Bank of America Stadium on Tuesday to pay respects to Anton Walkes, the Charlotte FC defender who was tragically killed in a boating accident in Florida on Jan. 18. 

A Charlotte FC player grips his water bottle between his arm and torso and claps while walking off the field
Anton Walkes (Photo by Taylor Banner/Charlotte FC)

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Walkes was involved in a two-vessel collision near the Miami Marine Stadium basin at around 3 p.m. on Jan. 18. First responders attempted life-saving efforts, including CPR, upon rescuing Walkes from the water, but he was later pronounced dead. 

The team hosted a “Celebration of Life” in Walkes’ memory on Tuesday, drawing people like MLS Commissioner Don Garber, teammate Andre Shinyashiki, Charlotte FC Head Coach Christian Lattanzio, and other officials. It also drew fans like Grayson Escher, who spoke with Queen City Nerve in the video below. 

In a statement immediately following Walkes’ death, Charlotte FC Sporting Director Zoran Krneta wrote, “We are heartbroken from the loss of Anton Walkes, a truly incredible father, loving person, and outstanding human being. Anton embodied what it means to be a part of Charlotte Football Club and our entire community is grieving over this tragedy. The impact he made in the locker room and throughout Charlotte will never be forgotten. We are thinking of his lovely family during this time and will support them fully in every way imaginable.” 

Beyond Open Announces First Round of Local Grants

Foundation for the Carolinas announced the completion of the first of three grantmaking rounds in the Beyond Open small business grant program on Friday, awarding $5.9 million in grants to 178 diverse-owned small businesses and select nonprofit organizations. Beyond Open grants range from $5,000 to more than $250,000 in unrequitable funding.

See the full list of grantees here. 

Beyond Open Round One grantees represent a range of small businesses, including brick-and-mortar retailers, transportation, construction and building companies, hospitality, catering and restaurant establishments, professional service providers, and social impact and creative entrepreneurs.

A select number of nonprofits, primarily focused within the small business support ecosystem, also received Beyond Open supports. The list of grantees ranges from entrepreneurs like Cheryse Terry, who owns Archive CLT on the Batties Ford Road corridor, to creatives like DJ That Guy Smitty. 

According to a release announcing the completion of Round 1, the grants will enable diverse-owned small businesses to acquire a variety of assets, including commercial service, production and manufacturing equipment, vehicles, machinery, tools, storefront improvements and signage, inventory, new or renovated business space, computers, communications equipment and more.

Foundation for the Carolinas has provided the following statistics about the Round 1 grantees:

  • 90% identify as a person of color, including 76% Black; 7% Hispanic/Latino; 4% Asian; 2% American Indian/Alaskan Native; 1% two or more races.
  • 72% identify as located within or near/adjacent to one of the six Corridors of Opportunity.
  • 60% identify as women. 
  • 13% identify as LGBTQ.
  • 8% identify as veterans.

The Beyond Open Round Two grant cycle timeline will be announced by mid-2023 and the Round Three timeline in 2024. Eligible businesses, including Round 1 grant recipients, are encouraged to apply.

Carolina Panthers Hire Former Quarterback as New Head Coach

The Carolina Panthers announced the hiring of a new head coach on Thursday, bringing on former quarterback Frank Reich, who was fired as coach of the Indianapolis Colts in November, to fill the position. The news came as a shock to those who wanted the Panthers to stick with Steve Wilks, who served as interim head coach following Matt Rhule’s firing, going 6-6 and gaining the favor of many fans and players — former and current. 

It is believed the Panthers went with Reich for his offensive expertise, though there were misgivings from fans and experts around the league who felt Wilks had earned his spot as head coach and was possibly passed over due to his race. The NFL has long been dogged by its racial disparity at the head coach position, which led to the Rooney Rule being passed in 2003. Wilks himself sued the NFL for racial discrimination in 2018 after he was fired from the Arizona Cardinals following a single season. 

“We are shocked and disturbed that after the incredible job Coach Wilks did as the interim coach, including bringing the team back into playoff contention and garnering the support of players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by David Tepper,” wrote Wigdor LLP, the law firm that represented Wilks in his previous lawsuit, in a statement following Reich’s hiring on Thursday. “There is a legitimate race problem in the NFL, and we can assure you that we will have more to say in the coming days.”

Neither Wilks nor any Wigdor representative has stated or implied any intention to seek another lawsuit. 

In a statement on Friday, Wilks wrote: “The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I. I’m disappointed but not defeated. Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through. It was an honor for me to coach those men in the Carolina Panthers locker room as the interim head coach. Players, coaches and staff, thank you for your hard work and dedication. I took pride in representing Charlotte, a great city that I love so much. Thank you to my family, friends and the community for your overwhelming support. I do wish Frank Reich all the best. I will always be a fan of the Carolina Panthers Football Team.”

Man Killed in North Charlotte

Just before 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, police responded to a shooting call at a gas station on West Sugar Creek Road in north Charlotte, where they found 30-year-old Devon Simmons dead from a gunshot wound. Police later identified a 55-year-old man as the suspect, and after that suspect turned himself in, he was charged with one count of murder and one count of attempted murder. 


Simmons was the first person murdered in Charlotte in two weeks, and the seventh homicide victim of 2023, all of which have come as the result of gun violence. 

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