Amid The Anthem Debate, A Dallas Cowboys Fan Gives Tickets Away To Teens And Cops
It's two hours from game time in Lot J across from the Cowboys' stadium, in Arlington, Texas. Andrew Brown, a 43-year-old IT executive, is surrounded by friends at his favorite tailgate spot — he's brought Frito pie, the grill's hot and the generator is humming.
Brown introduces three guests: High school juniors La'Dettrick Tyson and Bryan Baldomero and Dallas County Deputy Sheriff Claiborne Fountain.
Brown's here because they are – because he brought them here. And he almost didn't. Brown, a Cowboy's fan since he was three years old and a season ticket holder, almost boycotted every game because he doesn't like how the NFL treated players who kneel during the national anthem. The divisive conflict began last year, when then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee, and intensified this year — and Brown about had it.
But instead of staying home, Brown's been giving his tickets away to high school students and law enforcement officers.
"You've got this narrative over here saying 'All cops are bad killing black people' and you got these people over here saying 'We need police officers, black people need to stop doing criminal things,' " Brown says. "Instead of having those conversations, how do we change the narrative? How do we change the perception?"
In Brown's game plan, you put together who he considers the most vulnerable players in this conflict: kids and cops. Then, you start a conversation. But at a football game?
"Well, you have to start somewhere," Sheriff Fountain says. "There needs to be a dialogue. There needs to be communication. And communication is key. If there's something going on that you don't understand, you can't move forward. But once you sit and talk and there's a line of communication opened up, it starts to move forward."
Both Bryan and La'Dettrick, who attend Bryan Adams High School, said they don't have any negative feelings toward police officers.
La'Dettrick, who is black, says his worried mom has talked to him about interacting with police officers as a person of color.
"She thinks a cop will shoot me or shoot somebody in my family one day, I don't know," he says. "She was like, 'Treat them with much respect, don't do too much moving and all that,' so they don't think I'm drawing a weapon or anything."
Bryan says he's always gotten along with police officers.
"When I see a cop I don't think of it as a negative thing," he says. "Cause they're here to protect and serve us. So if you don't got nothing to hide, then you shouldn't really feel bad about it."
Brown doesn't just want to build bridges at football games. He and his friends have created a non-profit, the Stand N The Gap Foundation, that's designed to bring people together to focus on solutions that promote freedom, justice and equality. April Allen, one of Brown's tailgating friends has contributed to the foundation.
"I think that it will be a success because in the end, the boys are seeing policemen as real people and not people that are trying to hurt them or come after them," she says.
As a kid growing up in Florida, Brown says police lived in his poor neighborhood. They played basketball together. There was a semblance of mutual respect and understanding. In Texas, Brown's hoping to recreate that feeling. He says he wishes NFL team owners had thought of it first.
"These owners are men who own stadiums filled with seats," he says. "And if they had just taken a step back — instead of fostering the hateful narrative that's out there — they could have led entire communities in a different direction by putting officers and kids from these neighborhoods in seats together."
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