Allen Park — Anquan Boldin is a difference-maker.
That’s not limited to tough-third down conversions or the touchdown receptions. Boldin’s impact extends far beyond the gridiron.
In February, the NFL honored the Lions receiver as its Walter Payton man of the year for his extensive philanthropic work through multiple communities in Florida, Arizona, Maryland and California.
Now, Boldin is using his platform to tackle another mammoth issue: The strained relationship between law enforcement and minorities.
On Tuesday, he led a group of five players to Washington D.C. to meet with numerous policymakers at Capitol Hill and the White House to discuss the steps being taken federally to improve the situation.
Boldin was joined by teammate Glover Quin, Eagles safety Malcom Jenkins and Browns players Josh McCown and Andrew Hawkins.
“We understand the huge divide between law enforcement and civilians,” Boldin said. “I think there’s a huge distrust there so we just wanted to kind of be some of the guys that bridge that gap. I think there’s work to be done on both sides. We need somebody to bring us together and why not us? We have a platform at this point, what better way to use your platform.”
The NFL has been raising the level of discourse on the issue for months with players controversially using the national anthem as a vehicle for protest. The players hope the trip is the next step in finding solutions.
“Obviously what (49ers quarterback) Colin Kaepernick did, it started a huge, huge, huge conversation about it,” Quin said. “Right, wrong or indifferent, however you felt about it, you were talking about it, some type of way. That’s where it started.”
While the issue resonates with many Americans, it’s particularly personal for Boldin, whose cousin was killed by a police officer in October 2015.
Boldin’s cousin, Corey Jones, was shot to death after a plainclothes officer stopped to investigate his disabled vehicle on the freeway. The officer, who fired six times, striking Jones with three, has been charged with manslaughter and first-degree murder. A judge is aiming for a trial in the summer of 2017.
“I don’t want any other family to go through what my family is going through now because there are still a lot of unanswered question that we have as a family,” Boldin said.
Boldin made it clear he respects police officers. His foundation, Q81, has often partnered with the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Department for youth events. He said he also has family members who work in law enforcement.
But he believes the most important thing to bridge the gap between the sides is mutual understanding, achieved through open dialogue.
“When you draw a line in the sand, I don’t think people are able to hear each other,” Boldin said. “I want people to look at my sons and get to know them first, don’t just see them by 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, and I think that’s where we are now. I don’t think I’m the only one who is sick and tired of the way things are going, I think we all are.”
Boldin also understands these changes aren’t sudden. As President Barack Obama explained this week when talking about an unrelated issue, “The federal government and our democracy is not a speedboat. It’s an ocean liner,” according to whitehouse.gov.
Boldin and Quin both left the meetings with increased optimism. The plan is for Tuesday’s sessions to be the first of many, at both the national and local levels, as the group seeks continued progress with their efforts.
“It’s just a tough issue,” Quin said. “But there’s some work being done and we’re committed to continuing that work. We’ve got some good commitments to continue to work with us as well, so it’s good.”