By Will Burchfield
DETROIT (CBSDetroit) – Anquan Boldin and Glover Quin were among five NFL players who traveled to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to discuss issues of police brutality and racial injustice with members of Congress.
For Boldin, the motivation – in someways – was personal.
His cousin, Corey Jones, was killed by an undercover police officer last October and Boldin’s family is still searching for answers.
“So for me, I don’t want any other family to go through what my family is going through now because there’s still a lot unanswered questions that we have,” Boldin said. “And like I said, it’s more of us just trying to bridge that gap.”
Boldin spoke of an obvious “mistrust” between police officers and the African American community.
“I think there’s work to be done on both sides. We need somebody to bring us together and why not us? I think we have the platform at this point, and what better way to use your platform?” he said.
Boldin, the 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year-Award winner for his philanthropic outreach, traveled to Capitol Hill along with teammate Glover Quin, Philadelphia’s Malcolm Jenkins and Cleveland’s Andrew Hawkins and Josh McCown. He said they left the meetings, which took place at both the White House and the Capitol, with the sense that progress had been made.
“I think all of us walked away feeling optimistic. I think the great thing is, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, both sides agree that there is a divide between the two, so there’s something that needs to be done,” Boldin said. “No matter what side you sit on, Democrat or Republican, I think you have to reach across the aisle and come together as one and come up with a solution.
“I know it’s not an overnight thing. It’s something that’s going to have to be worked at, and worked at for a long time. But what we do want to see is progress. And we do want to make sure that our voices are heard. And those who feel like they don’t have a voice, we want to be a voice for them.”
“And in no way is it us bashing cops, because I have family members who are law enforcement officers, have been for a number of years. So the important thing for me is understanding both sides.”
Boldin frequently talks with his relatives who work in law enforcement to gain an appreciation for their perspective – and widen his own. His trip to Capitol Hill was another step in that direction.
“I mean, I think when you draw a line in the sand, I don’t think people are able to hear each other,” he said. “So for us, it’s opening up those opportunities for people to just (say), ‘Hey look, man. There’s a problem. And unless we come together to solve this problem, things are only going to get worse.’
“I think we can all see where this country is right now, and I don’t think anybody thinks that we’re in a great place as Americans. So for us, man, we all have to come together. We all have to see the bigger picture.”
Both Boldin and Quin talked about the importance of raising their children in an unprejudiced environment.
“We need to do better,” Boldin said, “because I have two sons who I’m raising and I would hate for them to have to live in a world where you’re being discriminated against for whatever reason. I want people to look at my sons and get to know them first. Don’t just see them, the color of their skin, and have this idea of who you think they are. Get to know me first. Talk to me, understand where I come from, understand my background.”
The issue of police brutality doesn’t hit as close to home for Quin as it does for Boldin. But it’s something he’s been aware of for a long time.
“I’ve always felt like it was an issue. It’s just, how do you go about it to do something that is worth doing? I’ve always been a guy more about action, less talk. I’m about action, I’m about doing stuff,” Quin said. “So little protests here and there, I mean, it’s good to bring attention and get the conversation going and all those things, but I’m more about, ‘Let’s go talk to some people that can make something happen.’”
Quin said the players’ goal in Capitol Hill was to “get some commitments” from politicians that the necessary conversations will continue moving forward. He confirmed they received those commitments, but wouldn’t reveal with whom the players talked.
“You gotta have some really open and honest conversations about the issue because regardless of who you are, I think we all know that there is an issue,” Quin said. “The solution, how you fix it, is what takes the time. And to fix it for a way that lasts.”
For Boldin, the tragic death of his cousin is constant motivation to raise questions and seek answers. To not only demand change, but to effect it.
“I don’t think I’m the only one that’s sick and tired of the way things are going. I think we all are. But for me, the conversation has been started,” Boldin said. “Now it’s time for action. What do we do next? What’s the next step? And that was my reason for going to Capitol Hill and to the White House. How can I help, if I can help? If I can lend my voice, if I can lend my platform, how can I help? And I want to hear from them, as well. What are you guys doing to further this issue, to help solve it?”
Boldin was encouraged by the dialogue on Tuesday and looks forward to continuing it in the future. The players intend to reconvene in Capitol Hill in the offseason.
“Like I said, I’m feeling optimistic,” said Boldin, “but it’s definitely just the first step for me. This is not something where we went to Washington and took photos. No, this is something that I’m going to continue to stay after on the federal level as well as state and local.”