Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns among teams doing police ride-alongs

By Alex Butler  |  Oct. 12, 2017 at 9:38 PM
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Oct. 12 (UPI) -- Cleveland Browns and Miami Dolphins players have partnered with local police officers to participate in ride-alongs and simulated training sessions.

Dolphins players, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Dolphins president and CEO Tom Garfinkel joined NFL and Dolphins staff on Tuesday, meeting with North Miami police and the Broward Sheriff's Office to take part in a ride along. That idea came from a town hall meeting in 2016 with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE), community leaders, law enforcement and youth coaches.

The Dolphins players included Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas. The players had a discussion on community policing and participated in a simulated training session before traveling with the group to North Miami Midddle School and Arch Creek Elementary School. Dolphins players Kenyan Drake and Davon Godchaux met with law enforcement at the Broward Sheriff's Office and visited with Olsen Middle School students and the Lauderdale Lakes football league.

"I think that's something that I talk to Kenny about all the time," Dolphins coach Adam Gase told reporters Wednesday. "I keep trying to find somebody that does as much as he does in our area. On any Tuesday, if you try to get a hold of him, you're going to have to wait until five or six o'clock because he's doing [community] stuff all day. I've been impressed with how he's made himself available, how much he tries to do. There's a group of guys. [Stills] grabs different guys all the time to come with him with whatever he's doing and I've just been impressed with the amount of time that he's put forth to try to make a difference in so many different areas."

Stills, Julius Thomas and Michael Thomas have been among the Dolphins players who decided to take a knee during the national anthem recently.

The movement began in 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the song to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Despite several owners recently stating that their players will stand during the anthem, the NFL and NFLPA recently issued a statement on their policy's current status.

"Commissioner Roger Goodell reached out to NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith today and both he and player leadership will attend the League meetings next week," the NFL and NFLPA joint statement said. "There has been no change in the current policy regarding the anthem. The agenda will be a continuation of how to make progress on the important social issues that players have vocalized. Everyone who is part of our NFL community has a tremendous respect for our country, our flag, our anthem and our military, and we are coming together to deal with these issues in a civil and constructive way."

Browns players, including Seth DeValve, Tyrone Holmes, Christian Kirksey, Carl Nassib and Randall Telfer met with the Cleveland Division of Police and Shaker Heights Police Department this week for local ride-alongs in the Great Cleveland Area. The players and officers had one-on-one conversations and learned more about their shared community during the effort. The groups also visited local neighborhoods, high schools and recreation centers.

"Law enforcement is a really important job," DeValve said in a news release. "It has been a profession that has gotten a lot of attention lately - maybe unfairly in some cases and maybe fairly in others. It was important to me to try and speak with officers and build relationships with officers in particular to learn about what they go through and what they do for a profession - when you hear what the media portrays - and you can really judge it properly."

"I think our society as a whole is going through some growing pains right now in regards to social justice and equality. Police have a role in it. All community members have a role in it. There are a lot of difficult and complicated conversations that are going on, and the more conversations you can have and the more sides of the conversation you are familiar with, the more wisdom you will have and the more direction you will be able to have when it comes to proposing solutions or changes.

"It was a good start. It is not enough for just one ride-along, but it is a really good start and something to build on."

Goodell wrote a letter to all 32 NFL teams on Tuesday, speaking to owners.

"Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem," Goodell wrote. "It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues."

"The controversy over the anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players. "Building on many discussions with clubs and players, we have worked to develop a plan that we will review with you at next week's league meeting. This would include such elements as an in-season platform to promote the work of our players on these core issues, and that will help to promote positive change in our country."

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones recently said his players will either stand for the anthem or be benched. A labor union filed a complaint against Jones on Tuesday, stating that the move is a violation of the National Labor Relations Act.

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