A group of four former and current NFL players held a Congressional forum this week to address criminal justice issues, including police brutality against the black community, reported NBC News.
Lead by Anquan Boldin, a free agent who most recently played for the Detroit Lions, the men – including former New England Patriots wide receiver Donte Stallworth, safety for the Philadelphia Eagles Malcom Jenkins and Lions quarterback Johnson Bademosi – met with over a dozen members of Congress to touch on a variety of concerns, said The Huffington Post.
Boldin’s push for improvements between the black community and law enforcement bodies had personal roots: his cousin, Corey Jones, was shot and killed during an encounter with a police officer in 2015.
Jones was driving home from a show with his church band in Florida when his car broke down. An unidentified police officer pulled up in an unmarked van, eventually firing six shots and killing Jones, reported the Huffington Post. The officer in question is facing criminal charges this fall.
“I wish I could tell you Corey’s story was unique. I wish I could tell you that now, over a year later, we know exactly what happened and that the issue is resolved,” Boldin said. “And I wish I wasn’t here at all talking about my dead cousin, but I am.”
The Congressional forum – titled “NFL Players Speak Up: First-Hand Experiences and Building Trust Between Communities and Police” – was hosted by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings of Maryland, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, all Democrats.
“We are here today to discuss ways to build greater trust between police and minority communities,” said Cummings, reported NBC. “We also want to discuss concrete proposals to help former inmates who have done their time and are leaving prison to re-enter society and make meaningful contributions to the neighborhoods in which they live.”
Conyers shared the statistic that over 250 African-American men were killed last year in police incidents alone, and 60 officers were slain in the line of duty.
“The community I come from wants and needs to know that they are being heard,” Boldin said Thursday, reported the Huffington Post. “We want to make sure that you, that those in position to bring positive change, understand the things that we as an African-American community are going through.”
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He continued, “We certainly do not feel that we’re being heard right now, especially when it comes to law enforcement and the way we are being policed. Our neighborhoods are feeling hurt, and they want to see change.”
The men also pushed for prison reform, with Jenkins explaining of the previously-incarcerated, “They serve time long after they’re released back into our neighborhoods. These are things that need to change.”