Bucs players add support to Tampa ex-offender program
The program was born when players wanted to make a grassroots effort to address social injustice issues beyond the on-field kneeling during the national anthem. “These were things that were important to the players,” said Bucs co-owner and Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation president Darcie Glazer Kassewitz. “They are putting this together. They are leading this. Prisons, back-to-work, empowerment for people, this is something they are very interested in. … That’s the beautiful thing about this program. It’s player-led, so it’s whatever touches their passion individually. That’s why it’s going to be so true and authentic, and why it’s going to be so amazing.”The program’s first event took players to Tampa Police Department’s Citizens Academy, where they reenacted scenarios in which officers must make life-changing decisions quickly.
Tuesday’s visit took them to a much different side to the spectrum, listening to those who have served time in jail and now are trying to overcome the stigma being labeled as criminals. Through the Ready4Work program, clients go through a four-to-six week, five-time a week career development crash course, the first step of helping them get jobs and reunite with their families. The program began locally four years ago, and of the 800 clients, 500 have completed the career development program, said Abe Brown Ministries president and Ready4Work director Robert Blount. It can be a challenge to getting clients jobs. Candidates have a 70 percent placement rate ad a 70 percent retention rate of being on the job 90 days of longer, Blount said. Blount said having the Bucs players —seven players attended the event, including Social Justice player board members Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”
Justice player board members Marpet and Donovan Smith —visit a class offered “mutual exposure.”
The player-led, year-round Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative — created with $1 million in matching funds from the Glazer family — has adopted the motto, “We are the change.” #Bucs #Buccaneers @Buccaneers @TB_Times @NFLSTROUD http://www.tampabay.com/blogs/bucs/2018/09/18/bucs-announce-social-justice-initiative/ …
Smith sat next to Kingson Aristil, who served 10 years in jail. Aristil, who ran track, cross country and played baseball at an Orlando high school, was incarcerated when he was 18. He is in his fourth week of the Ready4Work program, and looks forward to owning his own business one day.“For the first five years of my incarceration, I beat myself up about seeing guys I went to school with make it pro,” Aristil said. “A little bit of jealousy and envy went through me because I felt like I needed to be them. … Right now, in my life, I’m getting to a point of contentment. I’m happy seeing guys who are younger than me in the NFL doing what they need to do and coming back and giving back. I was broken. I was hurt. I thought I would never be able to compensate for the 10 years that I lost. My spirit feels at peace here. I feel humble here. I feel love.”
“Football and life parallels in a lot of ways,” the Bucs’ Donovan Smith said. “It’s about second chances. Every day, we’re given the chance to be our best. Unfortunately, in society, poorly-made decisions in people’s lives can kind of negate those chance. To come to a place where they are able to be in the path on their way back to normal society, it’s huge. We wanted to make it a point to be there and understand and sit down and talk with the people who are going through these things and hit it all. “Everybody goes through things,” he added, “Just hearing their stories and their similarities, it’s was lack of a better word, weird, because we are on two different ends to the spectrum, but we have similar backgrounds. It was just great to get here and hear the testimonies and just sit down one-on-one with them.
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Ali Marpet, Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative, Colin Kaepernick, DeSean Jackson, Donovan Smith, Gerald McCoy, Glazer Family Foundation, Jerry Jones, Mayor Bob Buckhorn, NFL, President Donald Trump, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Bucs announce social justice initiative
TAMPA — Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson stepped out of his cleats and walked in the shoes of a Tampa police officer during a simulation training session Tuesday that was eye-opening.
“I was a police officer doing a regular (traffic) stop and I got up to the car and they just started shooting at me,” Jackson said. “I was like, dang. I had to react. I wasn’t expecting that one.”
Almost a year ago to the day, Jackson and teammate Mike Evans took a knee during the national anthem before a game at Minnesota to draw attention to social injustice.
That spurred a team conversation that on Tuesday led to the unveiling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Initiative.
The player-led, year round initiative which has adopted the motto of “We are the change,” was created with $1 million in matching funds from the Glazer family that owns the Bucs.
On Tuesday, the initiative’s founding board that includes DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet and about 15 teammates, participated in police specialty team demonstrations and scenario-based exercises at the TPD training facility. They also held a question and answer session with Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
“I thought there was a disconnect and miscommunication that needed to be cleared,” McCoy said. “And we were able to ask questions and it was an open and honest conversation. We were able to ask hard questions.”
Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who says he goes to sleep each night listening to a police call scanner, said it’s the kind of conversation people need to have in every city. “This is an interesting time in America,” Buckhorn said. “It is an interesting time in the cities of America. It is a very unique time in terms of the police in our communities, particularly our communities of color. This is a challenge unlike anything we have faced as a nation. But ultimately it’s up to us how we resolve that quandary. It’s about communication. It’s about treating people with respect.”
The NFL has been looking for answers to this thorny issue since the summer of 2016, when a string of police shootings of unarmed black men inspired 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to kneel rather than stand for the national anthem. Kaepernick said he was protesting racial injustice. Other NFL players followed his lead, and athletes from other sports leagues joined the protests in various forms. But there were negative responses, even calls by President Donald Trump that players who protest during the national anthem should be fired.
When Trump launched a sensational attack on NFL players, saying owners should “get that son of a (expletive) off the field” if players disrespect the flag, it seemed to unify players and management. But television ratings saw a slight dip, and owners such as Jerry Jones tried to reach a solution by adopting a national anthem policy at the league meetings in March. The NFL rescinded its national anthem policy and is working with the players association on an collectively bargained one.
Darcie Glazer Kassewitz, Bucs owner/president of the team’s foundation, said Tampa Bay players identified four areas that needed the most help: police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality and youth empowerment.
The Bucs players have three more events scheduled this year: a Ready 4-work ex-offender training program, a prison crusade with Abe Brown Ministries and a juvenile justice mentoring event with G3 Life Apps.
“I had some questions I wanted to ask because I have some family in law enforcement and I understand that their job, career, it’s not easy,” McCoy said. “It’s not easy at all and they take a lot of heat. Everybody in professional football, they’re not always going to be the best people. They’re not going to make the best decisions. But it’s going to be magnified with something negative. But there’s a lot, a lot, a lot, of great police officers out there and they do a lot in the community. And it’s not just protecting us, but going to schools and talking to groups or spending time with kids they drive past at the park.”
McCoy’s turn in the simulator on Tuesday also did not end well.
“I did the simulation where I actually ended up being stabbed because I missed (with the taser),” McCoy said. “And I did a simulation where, they weren’t aggressive, but it escalated very fast. It teaches you that you have to make split second decisions. The crazy thing is similar to Sundays, you have a decision to make. You have your training. But you’re not always going to make the right decision. They opened our eyes to that today. It’s easy to watch it on TV from afar and say what a person should and shouldn’t do and how things should and shouldn’t go. But when you’re right in the midst, in the heat of the moment, it’s a lot harder than we make it seem.”
DeSean Jackson thanked the Glazer Family Foundation for their willingness to provide matching player contribution, which could result in a $2-million fund for the initiative. He said he hopes other NFL teams will follow suit with similar programs.
“It’s like a trigger affect,” Jackson said. “Once again, I don’t think the Glazers could miss this opportunity. It definitely helped, the conversation we had last year. Definitively, from last year to where we are right now is a huge change, a huge jump.”
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLStroud