On Oct. 18, 2015, then-San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Anquan Boldin celebrated a just-completed victory over his former team, the Baltimore Ravens. Moments later, he was informed of the death of his cousin, Corey Jones.
Jones was on his way home from a show with his church band in Florida when his car broke down on the side of the highway. While waiting for a tow truck, he was shot three times by a plainclothes police officer who emerged from an unmarked van.
Boldin, currently a free agent, told the story alongside Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins during a congressional forum on building trust between minority communities and police on Thursday, March 30.
“I wish I could tell you Corey’s story was unique. I wish I could tell you that, now, over a year later, we know exactly what happened and the issue was resolved,” Boldin told Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, Lacy Clay of Missouri, Brenda Lawrence and John Conyers of Michigan, Shelia Jackson Lee of Texas, Hank Johnson of Georgia and Cedric Richmond of Louisiana.
“I wish I could tell you Corey didn’t die in the first. As a matter of fact, I wish I wasn’t here talking to you at all, but I am,” Boldin said.
The forum occurred during a three-day trip to Capitol Hill where Boldin and Jenkins met with more than a dozen members of Congress from both sides of the aisle.
“We’re here to use our leverage, our voices, to make sure that our families, our communities, our kids are a priority to the people here on Capitol Hill, to this administration, to the rest of our nation,” said Jenkins, who got involved in the issue after seeing the widely-publicized incidents involving police and minorities last year.
This was Jenkins and Boldin’s second visit to Capitol Hill since November in their efforts to push legislators to make changes in the nation’s criminal justice. They were joined by Detroit Lions cornerback Johnson Bademosi, former wide receiver Donte Stallworth and Joe Briggs, the NFL Players Association’s public policy counsel.
“Let me thank you all for stepping off the field and stepping back into the real life that you all lived before you made it to the NFL and before you played in college,” Richmond told the players. “To get out of your comfort zone, but to actually give back and fight for issues that are critical — we don’t see it enough. But you all do it, and most of our African-American male athletes do it, you just don’t get the attention for it. You only get the attention for doing the wrong thing, but when you’re doing the right thing you don’t get as much attention, so let me thank you.”
Speaking out in such a manner isn’t without risk. Many have speculated that former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remains unsigned for the upcoming season because of his controversial decision to kneel during the national anthem, which he said was motivated by what he believed to be the oppression of people of color.
“There are a lot of guys [in the NFL] who are concerned about the things that are going on in their communities,” Boldin said. “[Jenkins and I] are trying to create a safe haven for guys to be active in their communities. Just being honest, guys are concerned about their livelihood.”
Jackson Lee commended the players taking such risks for their cause.
“NFL, are you looking and listening, because the NFL stature has just shot through the roof, not because of your prowess on the field, but because you are here in the United States Congress,” she said. “I hope they are seeing the value of what you are saying.”