Anquan Boldin Leads NFL Players on Capitol Hill to Talk to Police About Killing Black People

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Anquan Boldin wants to be known for more than just making plays on the football field.

The Detroit Lions wide receiver and a group of current and former NFL players visited Congress to have a discussion about the killings of African Americans by police officers around the country.

Back in October 2015, Bouldin recounted an incident where his cousin, Corey Jones, was killed by police. Corey was driving home after playing a show with his church band in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, when his car suddenly broke down. An unidentified officer pulled up in an unmarked white van.

“Moments later,” Boldin said, “Corey was dead.”

“I wish I could tell you Corey’s story was unique,” the wide receiver continued. “I wish Corey hadn’t died in the first place. As a matter of fact, I wish I wasn’t here at all talking to you about him at all. But I am.”

Officer Nouman Raja fired six shots at Corey that night. He was charged with one count of manslaughter by culpable negligence, and one count of attempted first-degree murder with a firearm.

“The community I come from wants and needs to know that they are being heard,” Detroit Lions wide receiver Anquan Boldin said during a forum held Thursday on Capitol Hill. “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. We certainly do not feel that we’re being heard right now 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.”

Jones was one of 248 black men killed during incidents with police officers in 2015, according to the Washington Post.

“Boldin came to Congress as part of a group of players that included Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, Detroit Lions defensive back Johnson Bademosi, and former NFL wide receiver and former Huffington Post intern Donte Stallworth. Over three days, the players met with more than a dozen members of Congress from both parties to discuss ways to improve relations between communities and the officers that police them, and potential legislative reforms that could help reduce the number of people ― in particular, African-American men and women ― killed in encounters with police.

There have been 257 people shot and killed in interactions with police officers since the beginning of 2017, according to the Washington Post’s database of police shootings. Sixty-two of them, or 24 percent, were black, even though African Americans make up only 12.5 percent of the overall population. Black Americans “are 2.5 times as likely as white Americans to be shot and killed by police officers,” according to the Washington Post’s data.

The players called on Congress to push forward with legislation they believe will help address broader issues of discrimination in the criminal justice system ― specifically two pieces of legislation that Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who organized and chaired the forum, have sponsored.

The first, the Fair Chance Act, is commonly known as the “Ban The Box” bill and would ban the federal government from requesting the criminal history of job applicants. The bill has bipartisan support ― along with Cummings, Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also sponsored it. Cummings is planning to re-introduce the legislation as soon as next week.

The second, the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, was introduced last year by Conyers and Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). That bill would encourage local law enforcement agencies to adopt performance-based standards to reduce incidents of misconduct through improved training and protocols. It also aims to enhance investigations into misconduct.”

Since Colin Kaepernick began his protest last August, this is the second time in the eight months that NFL players visited Congress to discuss this recurring issue.

“During his testimony Thursday, Jenkins said that he and his teammates met with Philadelphia’s police commissioner and even did a ride-along with police to “gain a better understanding” of how they interact with the community around them.

“Police brutality is really a symptom of a bigger system,” Jenkins said Thursday. “Our police force is the front lines of that justice system.”

That, Jenkins said, highlights the need for reforms that go beyond policing. NFL players can draw all the attention they want to these issues, Jenkins said, but without action from Congress little will change.

“If our justice system is not giving justice,” Jenkins asked members of Congress, “then what’s holding that back?”

Boldin, as well as the others, hope the lawmakers in attendance take heed to what they’re trying to accomplish.

“We want to see changes in policy,” Boldin said. “We want to know that justice will be served for all.”

“These issues are consistently pushed to the political back burner,” he said. “I believe that by working together, we can not only move it to the political forefront, but we can make measurable, meaningful and sustainable change in our communities.”

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