While on vacation a few weeks back, Southeast Missouri head coach Tom Matukewicz (better known in the profession simply as "Tuke") learned the news of the tragic shooting deaths of five Dallas police officers.
As documented in TheUndefeated:
Sipping on coffee with his wife, Lenna, he turned to her and said that after hearing this news, on top of the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota, he had to get involved. "I'm not black and I'm not a cop; what am I supposed to say?" he recalled..."But I do know that if you don't do anything, the problems get worse. And I'm mad. I'm embarrassed this is America right now. We can't say this is someone else's problem. It's your problem, my problem, everybody's problem. We've got to fix this thing. It's not OK."
Tuke texted a group of his players asking for ideas on how the team could be part of the solution to violence.
Quarterback Dante Vandeven suggested a flag football game with local law enforcement; but not Cops vs Hawks, they wanted to play together: Cops & Hawks. Though the idea for the game came from a player, Tuke says the whole team wasn't initially on board with the idea.
From The Undefeated:
Some players have fathers who are cops, while others say they have been harassed by officers. "There's a lot of people uncomfortable with this on my team" Tuke added. "They're pissed, maybe mad at the cops. And we have some players who have dads who are cops, so this is real now. This isn't warm and fuzzy sometimes." ... "It's easy to do nothing. You're safe. But safe is what got us in this damn problem. Not talking. We've got to do something. We have to talk about this. That's our problem in this society. We don't talk to each other."
As you can see in the video above, one player on the team, Tremane McCullough, had a brother who was shot and killed by a police officer. McCullough said, "You can't just look at white officers shooting black kids, because black people shoot black kids too. At the same time, you have black people killing black people, also. I don't look at it as racial. Black Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. It's sad that all these things happen. I just wish it could change. We need to come together as one big family in this world."
Last week the Cops & Hawks got together and played some flag football.
They spent time getting to know each other.
They ate dinner together after during which a police officer and a player each took turns speaking to the group.
Proceeds raised by the event benefited Backstoppers, a nonprofit organization that supports the families of fallen first responders in Missouri and Illinois.
FootballScoop would like to applaud the players & coaching staff at SEMO for taking the initiative and starting the conversation locally. Before the game Tuke noted that he constantly worries about the safety of his African-American players. After this bonding experience, we have to believe relations in the community are improved.
Photo credits throughout to Glenn Landberg