Today, more than a dozen players from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers along with Owner / President of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Darcie Glazer Kassewitz announced a new year-long, player-led Social Justice Program. The kickoff event, which included Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan, was the first in a series of programs developed by the players to create positive change in the Tampa Bay community.
The Social Justice Initiative will include monthly events focused on youth empowerment, police relations, criminal justice reform, racial equality and workforce development. The initiative will be supported by the newly-established Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation Social Justice Fund, a campaign driven by Buccaneers players and matching contributions from the team that will commit more than $1 million to Tampa Bay-area charitable organizations.
"Today's announcement is the culmination of many months of personal discussions and meetings with our players to devise a comprehensive, year-round program that touches a wide array of social justice issues throughout the Tampa Bay area," said Kassewitz. "I am proud of the hard work and passion that our players have put into this program and am excited to assist them in their goal of taking a leadership role to bring about positive change in our communities."
Led by DeSean Jackson, Gerald McCoy, Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith – representatives of the team's 2018 Social Justice Player Board – the Buccaneers contingent visited the Tampa Police Department's Training Center for the announcement. Accompanied by Chief Dugan and Mayor Buckhorn, the group spoke about the importance of becoming a driving force for social equality and strengthened relationships throughout the Tampa Bay community.
"I want to thank Darcie and the entire Bucs organization for recognizing the unique place that they play in our society and the unique role that athletes can have and what a role model they are for so many people in this country," said Buckhorn. "What matters in our life is not what happens between the lines on the field. What matters is whether or not we choose to leave our communities better than they were given to us. This is going to make a difference."
On Tuesday morning, players participated in the Tampa Police Department's Citizens Academy program. Joined by Dugan and Tampa Police Department personnel, players gained hands-on experience through simulation drills and de-escalation techniques utilized by officers in the field.
"My personal goal is to help bridge the gap that exists between many parts of our communities, especially with our youth," said Jackson. "As professional athletes, we have the chance to be leaders and I look forward to being a big part in bringing about positive change here in Tampa Bay. This experience really helped us gain a better understanding of the pressures and responsibilities that the police have in doing their jobs. Today was an important first step in gaining a better understanding of how we bring about change."
Added McCoy: "Similar to Sundays, you have a decision to make, you have your training but you're not always going to make the right decision. They opened our eyes to that today. It's easy to watch it on TV or from afar and say what a person should or shouldn't do, how things should or shouldn't go, but when you're right in the mix and in the heat of the moment it is a lot harder than what we make it seem."
Additionally, players and police officers participated in a candid closed-door discussion to share thoughts and ideas relating to societal issues, race relations and ways in which players can make a meaningful difference in the league-wide effort to address social justice.
"I commend the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Glazer family, but I also want to recognize the players," said Dugan. "When you think about it, just two days ago they were out on a field where it was 120 degrees. They get very little time off during the season, they're probably tired, they're probably sore, mildly injured – but they decided to get up this morning and come down to this police academy and see how we do things and see what it's like to be a police officer and see the world through a different view. I really commend them for that. They are doing their best to make a difference in our community and that means a tremendous amount to me."
Throughout the year, Buccaneers players will visit a variety of non-profit organizations in the Tampa Bay area that focus on reducing barriers of opportunity in underserved communities. Reinforcing life skills for teenagers, participating in community leadership rallies, providing support to ex-offenders readjusting into society and addressing issues of gun violence are just some of the efforts Buccaneers players will carry out this year.
About Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation's mission is to uplift our community, inspire our youth, and drive social change through programs that enrich the lives of families in our region. To learn more about the organization's commitment to making Tampa Bay better today and for generations to come, visit www.buccaneers.com/community.