By STEVE REED
AP Sports Writer
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Former Carolina Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks is “disappointed, but not defeated” that he didn’t land the team’s full-time head coaching position.
The Panthers announced on Thursday they’ve agreed to hire Frank Reich as their coach.
“The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I,” Wilks tweeted Friday. “Many people aren’t built for this but I know what it means to persevere and see it through.”
Wilks thanked players, coaches and staff for their dedication, saying he took pride in representing his hometown of Charlotte.
Wilks added, “I do wish Frank Reich the best.”
Wilks’ tweet came less than 24 hours after his attorney Douglas Wigdor blasted the Panthers for their decision not to hire Wilks, who went 6-6 as Carolina’s interim coach in 2022 after replacing the fired Matt Rhule in Week 6.
The Panthers interviewed Wilks, who is Black, twice for the position before settling on Reich, who is white.
“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 the players and fans, that he was passed over for the head coach position by (Panthers owner) David Tepper,” Wigdor said in an email. “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.”
The Associated Press reached out to Wigdor’s office Friday to ask if it planned more legal action.
“We do not have another comment at this time other than what we posted,” spokeswoman Courtney Cormican said.
The Panthers said the team will have its first public remarks when Reich is introduced at a news conference on Tuesday.
Wilks made no mention of whether the Panthers will be added to an ongoing lawsuit alleging racial hiring practices by the NFL and some teams. Nearly a year ago, Wilks joined Brian Flores’ lawsuit in an effort to bring attention to the lack of Black head coaches in the NFL.
“When Coach Flores filed this action, I knew I owed it to myself, and to all Black NFL coaches and aspiring coaches, to stand with him,” Wilks said in a statement through his attorney last February. “This lawsuit has shed further important light on a problem that we all know exists, but that too few are willing to confront. Black coaches and candidates should have exactly the same ability to become employed, and remain employed, as white coaches and candidates.”
Several Panthers players said after the regular season ended they wanted Wilks to return in 2023, including longtime linebacker Shaq Thompson. Thompson suggested players wanted to have a meeting with Tepper to give player input on the coaching situation, and throw their support behind Wilks.
It’s unclear if that meeting happened.
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