By Mike Cugno

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – For the second straight year, the Miami Dolphins and local law enforcement are conducting ride-alongs in conjunction with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality. It’s an effort to strengthen relationships between police officers and the communities they serve. These are a result of a town hall meeting coordinated with RISE back in 2016.

About a year ago, four Miami Dolphins players joined then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and took a knee during the national anthem- protesting police brutality and racial oppression.

But instead of just sitting on the sidelines, these athletes decided to be proactive and take things a step further.

Off days are usually reserved for fixing bumps and bruises but the Dolphins were working on maintaining a healthy relationship between law enforcement and children in the community.

Running back Kenyan Drake and defensive tackle Davon Godchaux began their afternoon with a briefing at Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters, then loaded up into a couple of police cars and headed out to Olsen Middle School in Dania Beach and Vincent Torres Park in Lauderdale Lakes.

“We’re going to go visit this community man, some good work with the kids,” Godchaux said.

Dolphins players, RISE, and law enforcement from Miami-Dade and Broward counties, are participating in ride alongs and school visits to engage the community and discuss community policing.

“Being in the back of the car with me, you got to see this is real,” said Broward Sheriff’s Officer Gerry Wengert. “It’s real. There’s nothing made up. There’s no script, it’s just us. Guys that don’t even know each other having a good time, talking, laughing, just human nature.”

The conversations weren’t all fun and games though as some serious topics were also discussed.

“I just had a great talk with police officers in the car about guys taking a knee,” Godchaux said. “If you’re going to do it, do it for a purpose. I have no problem with guys taking a knee but do it a for a purpose. Don’t do it to be a follower, be a leader.”

Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was on hand for a trip around North Miami with Dolphins players Kenny Stills, Michael Thomas and Julius Thomas.

All three have taken a knee for the national anthem this season, except for last Sunday when they remained in the tunnel that leads onto the field instead.

Players were asked to stay off the field for the anthem if they weren’t going to stand, per a new mandate by coach Adam Gase.

“That dialogue is what we all learn from,” Goodell said. “Having a better understanding of one another can help our communities better by working together.”

It’s a sentiment that was agreed on by the players.

“I thought it was great,” Thomas said. “It’s not speculation it’s not social media no more, it’s just those two people coming together and talking to each other.”

On the trip around Broward County the players chatted with kids, went through football drills and handed out football cards.

“Obviously they were really excited when they saw professional athletes, but when [the kids] saw [the athletes] embrace us, they began to embrace us.”

“We have a bunch of good cops out here who show up to work every day, doing a job and really serving their community,” said parent and youth football coach Kurt Shelton. “So I commend the guys that’re here for what they’re doing today for our kids.”

At the end of the day it proved to be a positive trip, one where common ground and a new found respect were discovered.

“Every day is game day for him,” Drake said referring to an officer he was standing with. “It could be game day right now just driving around the road so that’s a lot of pressure. A lot of stress. Just for him to come out here and do this on a daily basis – I have nothing but respect for him.”

The primary goal of Tuesday’s events were to engage the community with the BSO officers and clearly it was a success.

The Dolphins say they want to do more of these kinds of events in the future.


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