Several Sports Stars Team Up to Host Open Forum on Important Issue

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Former NFL wide receiver Anquan Boldin is confident relations between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve can improve.

For that to happen, as the three-time Pro Bowler sees it, difficult conversations must take place between both sides, locally and nationally.

He wishes more dialogue about this matter occurred before his cousin, Corey Jones, was shot and killed by a plainclothes police officer while waiting for roadside assistance after his car broke down in October 2015 in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Nearly four years since that tragedy, Boldin is now on a mission to try and repair the issues that are sadly tearing apart so many communities throughout the country.

Co-founder of the Players Coalition, which was created in 2017 with the goal of making an impact on social justice and racial equality, Boldin hosted an open forum on Tuesday, Sept. 10 in Orlando at the Frontline Outreach Center, giving the public an opportunity to hear from local leaders on the topic.

“I think it’s necessary, especially for Orange County,” said Boldin, who grew up in South Florida before playing at Florida State and then in the pros. “I think the issues here are real. I think the people want answers.”

“We all know there is a disconnect between our law enforcement and the community,” he added. “And for us it’s about bringing both together and finding solutions to those problems. I think that’s what we’re all about. A lot of times we get stuck on who’s right and who’s wrong and don’t focus in on the problems. We want to find the solutions so we don’t have that problem.”

Joining the 38-year-old, who won a Super Bowl while playing for the Baltimore Ravens during his 14-year career, were three other sports stars with Orlando Magic ties. Former coach Stan Van Gundy and former players Bo Outlaw, who is currently one of the team’s community ambassadors, and Quentin Richardson were on hand to help drive the discussion.

Van Gundy, a moderator during the Q&A session that featured 2020 candidates for the positions of Orange County Sheriff and State Attorney for Florida’s Ninth Judicial Circuit, agrees with Boldin that attacking problems starts with having conversations.

“I don’t think you can start anything or work toward anything until people understand on both sides what the other one is talking about,” the Magic’s all-time winningest head coach said. “We’ve got the right people in the room tonight. These are the people who can make a difference. This is the first time that these people are appearing together in a public forum heading into the election. These are two important offices. We’re going to get to hear from them now and start to form opinions on them and figure out what their message is. I think this is good on a lot of fronts.”

Included on the panel were incumbent Orange County Sheriff John Mina and two of his challengers, Andrew Darling and Joe Lopez. Deborah Barra and Ryan Williams, candidates running to be the top prosecutor for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, were also on the stage. Although she is not seeking re-election, current chief prosecutor Aramis Ayala answered questions as well.

“I’m so happy to be invited and involved in this,” Mina said. “It really takes the entire community and the police working together, side-by-side, to make change and to hear each other out and to really make a positive experience for both law enforcement and our community.”

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