A group of NFL players pleaded with Congress to push for possible legislative reforms regarding the uptick in police brutality and killings of Black men and women.
Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin, Detroit Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi and former wide receiver Donté Stallworth were among the NFL players who spoke to Congress over the course of three days to discuss solutions and improvements on how to combat police brutality, including improving relations between police and the communities they serve.
“Police brutality is really a symptom of a bigger system,” Jenkins said Thursday, March 30, according to The Huffington Post. “Our police force is the front lines of that justice system. If our justice system is not giving justice, then what’s holding that back?”
“People who look like us, who are the same as us, listen to the same music, do the same things, are killed in the street,” Bademosi said, according to Philly.com. “I don’t want to speak for everybody, but that makes me sad, that makes me angry.
“We’re tired of just putting a fist up to getting on a knee and participating in symbols,” he added, referencing Colin Kaepernick’s now-ended protest against Black oppression. “We need action.”
The athletes pushed two pieces of legislation that will help reduce racial discrimination in the criminal justice system, primarily the Fair Chance Act and the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act.
The former, also known as “Ban the Box,” is sponsored by Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland with bipartisan support and would eliminate the requirement for job applicants to share their criminal history with the government. The other, the Law Enforcement Trust and Integrity Act, is sponsored by Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Maryland and would improve misconduct investigations while encouraging local police departments to take on performance-based standards to decrease misconduct using improved training and protocols.
Jenkins also wanted the issues with the mass incarceration system addressed, including those that disproportionately affect the Black community, like trying children as adults and mandatory minimum sentences. Options for job training and mental health services should be another focus for Congress, Jenkins said, to lower recidivism rates.
Conyers applauded the athletes for spotlighting the issue, noting their “appearance here is meaningful — and not without risk to your livelihood,” according to NBC News.
“Ultimately, I believe that your activism will inspire other to raise their voices for justice,” he said. “Let no one make the mistake of believing that the search for justice in America is anything less than an act of patriotism.”
Boldin and Jenkins are working with lawmakers to push for reforms at the state and local levels.
“We want to see changes in policy,” Boldin said, according to The Huffington Post. “We want to know that justice will be served for all. These issues are consistently pushed to the political back burner.
“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.”