Congress recently held a forum to “build trust” between communities and police, and two NFL stars used the opportunity to speak out.
Super Bowl champion Anquan Boldin used the opportunity to tell the nation’s leaders about his cousin, Corey Jones, who was killed by a plain clothes officer on his way back from a show with his church band.
Jones’ car broke down on the side of the road, and he was waiting beside it when Officer Nouman K. Raja approached him.
Officer Raja was not wearing a body camera, and he said that Jones was carrying a weapon. This was true, but Jones had a concealed carry permit for the legally purchased firearm, and never discharged the weapon. Raja apparently did not identify himself as an officer. Jones’ body was found away from his vehicle, indicating that he was fleeing when he was shot.
“I wish I could tell you Corey’s story was unique,” Boldin said. “I wish I could tell you that now, over a year later, we know exactly what happened and that the issue was resolved… I wish I could tell you Corey didn’t die in the first place. As a matter of fact, I wish I wasn’t here talking to you at all, but I am.”
The forum, titled “NFL Players Speak Up: First-Hand Experiences and Building Trust Between Communities and Police,” was held at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, DC.
Attendees included Representatives Lacy Clay (D-Missouri), Brenda Lawrence (D-Michigan), John Conyers (D-Michigan), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana), and Hank Johnson (D-Georgia).
Boldin, a free agent wide receiver, decided to use his celebrity to bring attention to what he sees as widespread community policing issues.
Boldin was joined by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, who testified regarding juvenile mass incarceration.
Although Boldin and Jenkins garnered the most attention, they were also joined by Detroit Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi, NFL Players Association public policy adviser Joe Briggs, and former NFL wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
This was Boldin’s second trip to Congress in the last six months, and he’s pushing to build trust between communities and the police. He appealed to lawmakers to support efforts to increase police transparency, particularly in instances like the Corey Jones case.
Congressman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, the leader of the Congressional Black Caucus, opened the forum by recognizing the athletes.
“Let me thank you all for stepping off the field and stepping back into the real life that you all lived before you made it to the NFL and before you played in college. To get out of your comfort zone, but to actually give back and fight for issues that are critical,” Richmond said, according to The Undefeated.
When asked whether other NFL players would be interested in getting involved, Jenkins had a quick response.
“There are a lot of guys that have concerns about what’s going on in their communities and across the nation that are looking for ways to get involved,” Jenkins said. “They’re not sure what to do, but they do want to put in some work. And that’s kind of what me and Anquan are doing, is really trying to blaze that trail for them to follow along.”