Pittsburgh Steelers captain Maurkice Pouncey has dropped out of a team tribute to a teenager who was fatally shot dead by a police officer in 2018, claiming that he was “unaware of the whole story” behind the high-profile killing.

The NFL team have branded the name of Antwon Rose Jr, an unarmed 17-year-old who was fatally shot by East Pittsburgh police in 2018, on the back of their helmets for the NFL season despite Pouncey not being fully informed of the subsequent developments in the trial.

Investigators stopped the car because it matched the description of a vehicle involved in a drive-by shooting minutes earlier, for which another passenger pleaded guilty to opening fire.

Officer Michael Rosfeld shot Rose three times in the back when he began to flee with another teenager, but was later aquitted of criminal homicide.

@pghpolicechief @pghpolice @northmiamipd @lakelandpd

A post shared by Maurkice Pouncey (@maurkicepouncey) on Sep 17, 2020 at 6:30am PDT

“I was given limited information on the situation regarding Antwon,” admitted Pouncey, joining offensive lineman Al Villanueva in shunning the symbolism.

“I was unaware of the whole story surrounding his death and what transpired during the trial following the tragedy. I should have done more research to fully understand what occurred in its entirety.”

Former Army Ranger Villanueva instead added the name of Alwyn Cashe, a black soldier killed on duty in Iraq, to his helmet for the team’s first NFL game of the season on Monday night.

Rose’s family settled a civil rights lawsuit against the borough of East Pittsburgh for $2 million last year. The youngster’s mother, Michelle Kenney, had been assured that the players had voted to honor her son by wearing his name on their helmets, only for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick to reveal that the decision “came from upstairs” and linebacker Vince William to confirm that he had not even been aware Rose’s name would be on the helmets.

“I was in disbelief,” Kenney told Trib Live about her discovery that the move had not been the players’ decision, adding that she had not personally heard from any Steelers staff close to the team and had been disheartened and offended when she first learned of Pouncey and Villanueva’s rejection of the move.

We don’t want him to be forgotten. For the 2020 season, we unite as one and will wear a single name on the back of our helmets – Antwon Rose Jr.

A post shared by Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) on Sep 14, 2020 at 8:01am PDT

“I asked the question three times to make sure that I was hearing it properly.”

Pouncey said he wanted to ensure that police understood he had “inadvertently supported a cause” without “fully comprehending the entire background of the case.”

The center has a history of working closely on police initiatives in Pittsburgh and his home state of Florida. “I take responsibility for not doing more investigating into something that is sensitive to the community and his family,” he accepted.

“But it is a lesson learned as it relates to political issues that occur every day in our society.

“Moving forward, I will make my own decision about what to wear on the back of my helmet. Make no mistake, I am against racism and I believe the best thing I can do is to continue helping to repair relationships between the police and their communities.

Statement from #Steelers President Art Rooney II

A post shared by Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) on Sep 17, 2020 at 8:47am PDT

“Systemic racism issues have occurred in our country for too long, and that needs to stop.”

Kenney has dedicated her life to supporting police reforms and was angered at the perceived suggestion that she did not support law enforcement.

“I always say I am not an advocate for defunding the police,” she insisted. “I’m not trying to criticize the police. I don’t think all police are bad, I’m not anti-police.

“I just want them to have some accountability and to be better at policing the communities that they serve. That’s all. It’s really just that simple.

“Mostly, I was just wondering why none of these individuals even attempted to talk to me or ask me what I thought or find out about Antwon other than what the negative press [and] negative people are saying. They didn’t know [Rose].”

She said she felt she shared common ground with Pouncey over wanting “a better community” and “policing [being] an issue.”

“The Steelers are an entity that have the financial resources and the backing to push on with the movement,” she pointed out. “I think it’s a perfect match. I don’t know how it went to negativity.”

Issuing a statement in response to the saga, two-time Super Bowl winner Art Rooney II, the billionaire owner of the Steelers, pledged to respect how individual players and staff members expressed their views on social justice issues.

“We will continue to support our social initiatives to fight against social injustice and systemic racism not only in our area, but around the country,” he promised.