A lawyer for Carolina Panthers interim coach Steve Wilks says the NFL has "a legitimate race problem" after the team declined to make him the permanent head, CBS Sports reports.
On Thursday (January 26), the Panthers announced that Frank Reich, who was fired mid-season by the Indianapolis Colts, would become the team's next head coach, despite Wilk's body of work as interim.
Wilks released a statement on Friday (January 27) saying he was "disappointed" by the decision but honored by the opportunity he had to work with the Panthers.
"The sun rose this morning and by the grace of God so did I," Wilks wrote. "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," he continued.
"I do wish Frank Reich all the best. I will always be a fan of the Carolina Panthers Football Team."
Wilks received rave reviews after replacing Matt Rhule for the final 12 games of the season. The Wilks-led Panthers finished the season 6-6, coming just shy of winning the NFC South division.
Reich, on the other hand, was fired nine games into the Colts' 2022 season following a 3-5-1 start.
A lawyer representing Wilks in Brian Flores' racial discrimination lawsuit against the NFL didn't mince words about the Panthers' new hire.
"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 David Tepper," attorney Douglas Wigdor said.
"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."
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