MIAMI – As part of the Miami Dolphins FOOTBALL UNITES™ program, Miami Dolphins players, cheerleaders and staff spent the day with the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department and the North Miami Police Department to discuss community policing and take part in youth engagement activities.
The Dolphins worked with RISE, the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality—a non-profit created by Dolphins Owner Stephen Ross dedicated to harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations— on a series of facilitated discussions with high school students and law enforcement designed to break barriers and strengthen communities. To learn more about RISE, visit www.RISEtoWIN.org.
“What FOOTBALL UNITES™ and RISE has done is bring people together using sports as that unifier,” RISE Vice President of Leadership and Education of Programs Kim Miller said. “We need to have relationships between communities and law enforcement to make progress. We hope people can stop and think, ‘what is it that I can do’? We each can be a leader whether you’re a 15-year-old or a 40-year-old officer, so we hope that we gave people that sense of empowerment that they can truly be change agents.”
Jerome Baker, Raekwon McMillan and cheerleaders began their morning with the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) and visited Hialeah (Fla.) High School to participate in a RISE-led workshop with officers and the students of Coral Gables, Hialeah and Norland High Schools on the perceptions of law enforcement and teens and how together they can work to improve them and build a stronger community. The group later visited Madison Middle School to further spread the message of unity and togetherness.
“It’s an awesome opportunity when actual players that live in the community can take time out of their busy schedules and foster that relationship with kids and build that relationship as well,” Miami-Dade Schools Chief of Police Edwin Lopez said. “It’s a great opportunity for kids to see not only law enforcement but the commonalities and similarities between themselves and the players who were once them at their age. I think that the players of the Miami Dolphins are able to hear firsthand from law enforcement and from kids and I believe that law enforcement can hear from kids as well and their perspectives so it’s just an information sharing opportunity to highlight social issues that happen in the community. We all see the news and we are able to see one perspective but here we are able to ask certain questions face to face and really get to the root of certain issues and improve. We can improve as law enforcement. I’m sure the students can improve in some way as well and then we have the Miami Dolphins players that are there to serve in many capacities and share personal insight and make them part of a team.”
“With FOOTBALL UNITES™ we brought together law enforcement and people within the community and we talked about how we can bridge the gap between each other because us as people have a fear for law enforcement and try to stay away from them,” Miami Dolphins linebacker Raekwon McMillan said. “I learned some perspective on how law enforcement works, how they think and how we can help ourselves be in a better relationship with them. It’s always good to get around the youth and to just change their perspective on how they see police officers as well. They are our tomorrow. They are the future so it is us coming out to see them and letting them know that law enforcement is positive and not a negative and can help them in the long run. That is what the sport of football is for.”
Later in the day, Walt Aikens, Kalen Ballage, MarQueis Gray, Kenny Stills and cheerleaders met with the North Miami Police Department (NMPD) and their Police Athletic League (PAL) program to take part in a similar RISE-led session. After the session, the Dolphins took part in a ride along with NMPD where they stopped to see their new PAL center, partially funded through the FOOTBALL UNITES™ program and visited the Center Court Apartments in a surprise meet and greet with residents.
“Although we have different perspectives on things throughout life and throughout the community, just because they’re different doesn’t mean they are wrong,” North Miami Chief of Police Larry Juriga said. “We can have an understanding now after talking with the kids and talking with the players and we might not always agree but we can certainly understand better. If we show that we are unified in trying to engage and trying to make things better then it will lead to a better community for all of us.”
“It was all about perspective; I didn’t know that these kids viewed the officers this way and we have to change that as adults,” Miami Dolphins cornerback Walt Aiken said. “For the officers, they see the same things that we see in the youth and they know that they are our future and we have to positively influence them to better ourselves and the future.”