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Anquan Boldin shares poignant inspiration for justice reform



Anquan Boldin shares poignant inspiration for social justice

Players Coalition co-founder Anquan Boldin shared a poignant personal tragedy in the signature public service spot of the NFL’s Inspire Change platform during Sunday’s conference championship games.

In the spot that will run through Super Bowl Sunday, Boldin shares his inspiration to launch social justice work: the 2015 shooting death of his cousin Corey Jones, 31, at the hands of a plainclothes police officer after his car had broken down on Interstate 95 in Florida.

A jury in West Palm Beach last year found ex-police officer Nouman Raja guilty of armed manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in the death of Jones.

Prosecutors said Raja never identified himself to the stranded motorist as a police officer when he arrived in an unmarked white van with tinted windows and approached him while wearing plainclothes and a baseball cap.

Raja was on duty doing burglary surveillance when he shot Jones several times in the encounter caught on audio.

“There are just some things that are bigger than football and I felt like starting the Players Coalition and affecting change in this country was one of those things,” Boldin says in the 60-second spot that debuted during the AFC championship game between the Titans and Chiefs.

“Had it not been for the work that we do, Corey’s death would have been in vain,” Boldin says in the PSA, concluding, “The best way to inspire change is to be it.”

The league launched the initiative, which emphasizes education and economic development, community and police relations and criminal justice reform, in 2019 in connection with its 32 teams and the Players Coalition, a group of current and former players that works for social justice.

The league and the players had established a working relationship in October 2017 following player demonstrations for social justice during the national anthem.

“We are aware of the challenges we’ve faced over the last few years. The issues that NFL players brought to the forefront do not only impact players. These are American issues that affect us all,“ said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility.

“The NFL is fortunate to have an incredible platform and with this platform, we have the opportunity to help create positive change and work toward social justice for all of our communities. We’re amplifying and supporting the work that players have started — this is what Inspire Change exists to do.”

The NFL has been running player PSAs during the playoffs and earlier this month awarded $3 million in grants to grassroots organizations, bringing to $25 million it has awarded to social justice groups since the campaign’s launch.

Isaacson called Boldin’s PSA a “signature spot we hope will really bring clarity to what social justice is and how committed NFL players are to these issues.

“This is a personal and family tragedy, but the spot is really about what came from that tragedy and that’s all this great work on social justice.“

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No decision on revealing emails between Saints officials, church after hearing



NEW ORLEANS — No decision was made immediately Thursday after a civil court hearing to determine whether emails between officials from the New Orleans Saints and the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans will be made public.

Attorneys for the Saints, the archdiocese, The Associated Press and plaintiffs suing the church over sexual abuse allegations made arguments before retired Judge Carolyn Gill-Jefferson, who was appointed as a “special master” in the case. Gill-Jefferson said she will give her recommendation on how to proceed to presiding Judge Ellen Hazeur after reviewing Thursday’s arguments and the briefs that were submitted by attorneys.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys have accused Saints officials of aiding the church in its “pattern and practice of concealing its crimes” by helping to shape the church’s public relations response while releasing the names of clergy members who have been credibly accused of abuse.

Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Gayle Benson, a devout Catholic and close friend of Archbishop Gregory Aymond, has vehemently denied those claims. Benson and the team have insisted through multiple statements that senior vice president of communications Greg Bensel only offered input on how to work with the media and that his advice was to be “direct, open and fully transparent.”

Church attorney Dirk Wegmann also argued Thursday that Bensel was not working on behalf of the Saints when he offered his counsel — despite using his work email address. But he stressed that neither Benson nor Bensel should be shamed for exercising their Catholic faith and supporting their church.

Wegmann and Saints attorney James Gulotta Jr. argued that the emails should be made public if they are submitted as evidence in trial but that the discovery process is not open to the public. They stressed that they are not trying to block any of the emails from being entered into evidence, but it’s up to the court to determine that through the “normal rules of discovery.”

They claimed that releasing the emails publicly would only serve to annoy, embarrass and bring public scrutiny to high-profile officials through the release of emails that they believe are “irrelevant” to the case.

Meanwhile, attorneys for The AP and the plaintiffs suing the church argued that the Saints have not met their burden of proving that the emails should remain confidential and that the demand for public interest outweighs their right to privacy.

Plantiffs’ attorney Richard Trahant said the Saints’ claim that they had nothing to do with the composition of the list of accused clergy members released by the church was “flatly contradicted by the Saints’ emails.”

And AP attorney Mary Ellen Roy pointed out that the Saints themselves have stressed in their statements that “there is nothing to be embarrassed about” in the emails and that they are proud of their relationship with the church. “They’re trying to have it both ways, saying, ‘Everything was good, everything was fine and dandy. But let us tell you that. Don’t look for yourselves,'” Roy argued.

Trahant said there are a total of 305 documents showing correspondence involving the Saints. He presented one email exchange that has already been made public, in which Bensel asked archdiocese spokeswoman Sarah McDonald, “Is there a benefit to saying we support a victim’s right to pursue a remedy through the courts?” And McDonald replied, “I don’t think we want to say we ‘support’ victims going to the courts, but we certainly encourage them to come forward.”

Trahant also chided both the archdiocese and the Saints over their stated desires to be “transparent” while fighting to conceal the information in the emails.

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Bills rookie Ford has fine reduced, donates fan-raised money to charity



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills rookie Cody Ford‘s fine for an illegal blindside hit was reduced to less than a quarter of its original amount, the offensive lineman tweeted Thursday.

Originally fined $28,075 for his hit during Buffalo’s AFC Wild Card loss to the Houston Texans, Ford appealed the decision and won, earning a new punishment of $4,211.

Both the penalty and its ensuing fine were met with near-universal criticism last month; the penalty stalled a critical late-game drive and knocked Buffalo out of field goal range. Once the original fine was announced, fans started a GoFundMe campaign to help Ford pay the amount, raising $3,870 — which Ford said was donated to charity.

The call was widely panned because the hit seemed tame by NFL standards; Ford did not launch into defender Jacob Martin, whose body appeared to be facing Ford’s direction at the time of the impact. However, Ford was coming back toward the line of scrimmage and initiated contact with his shoulder, drawing the penalty.

On 3rd-and-9 in overtime against Houston on Jan. 4, Bills quarterback Josh Allen scrambled four yards to the Texans’ 38-yard line to bring up 4th down — which became 3rd-and-24 after the 15-yard penalty on Ford. Buffalo failed to convert from there, punted and ultimately lost the game on a game-winning Texans field goal.

The Bills’ second-round pick out of Oklahoma, Ford started 15 games at right tackle in 2019. In his tweet announcing the reduction Thursday, he stood firm that he disagrees with the penalty.

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Source — Redskins TE Jordan Reed cleared from protocol, released



ASHBURN, Va. — Washington Redskins tight end Jordan Reed was cleared from the concussion protocol, a source confirmed Wednesday, and was released Thursday, as expected, a source told ESPN’s Field Yates.

Reed suffered the concussion on a helmet-to-helmet hit in August, during the third preseason game. His clearance from the protocol was first reported by The Athletic. Redskins coach Ron Rivera had said Saturday that Reed remained in the protocol.

With Reed’s release, Washington will save $8.5 million against the salary cap, with $1.8 million in dead money. Reed had two years left on his contract.

Reed, 29, missed all of last season because of the concussion, his seventh documented one since he started playing college football. His career has been marked by multiple injuries, and Reed has never played more than 14 games in a season. A source close to Reed said the tight end wants to continue playing.

He had struggled for two seasons because of ligament damage to his big toes but looked good in training camp over the summer. But in the third preseason game, Reed suffered a concussion after Atlanta Falcons safety Keanu Neal delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit. Reed nearly returned in Week 2, getting cleared by the team, but after symptoms returned, an independent neurologist failed to clear him. He did not practice after Sept. 12 and was put on injured reserve Oct. 14.

Washington made Reed the focal point of its passing attack under former coach Jay Gruden. He responded with a big season in 2015, when he played a career-high 14 games. That season, Reed caught 87 passes for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns — all personal bests.

After that season, the Redskins signed Reed to a five-year extension worth up to $46.75 million, and he made his lone Pro Bowl after the 2016 season. But from 2016 to 2018, thanks to injuries, he averaged only 49 catches per season with a combined 10 touchdowns. He has 329 career receptions with 24 touchdowns.

Washington selected Reed in the third round out of Florida in the 2013 draft and he provided immediate help, catching 45 passes in nine games before injuries ended his rookie season. Reed proved to be a mismatch for linebackers or safeties, especially when aligned in the slot. The Redskins loved his ability to quickly win versus a defender, making him an ideal target.

The Redskins have a big need at tight end. Last year’s starter, Vernon Davis, retired — though it was unlikely they would have re-signed him anyway. Washington visited with Greg Olsen, but he ended up signing with the Seattle Seahawks.

Washington already released two former starters this month: cornerback Josh Norman and wide receiver Paul Richardson. After those moves, the Redskins have approximately $54 million in salary-cap space.

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