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NHL Player: ‘I am done raising my fist’

“I have a better understanding, I can guarantee you that”

(National SentinelLife Lessons: NFL-like protests featuring mostly black players have spread now to other sports, including the National Hockey League.

But one protesting player had a realization and reality check recently that has made him declare that he’s done with protesting at games.

Tampa Bay Lightning player J. T. Brown, one of only 30 black players in the NHL, began raising his fist in the air — the symbol for “black power” that began in the 1960s — during the playing of the National Anthem.

But thanks to an intervention of sorts by the Tampa Bay Police Department, that’s changed.

When I began my peaceful demonstration, I wanted to bring awareness to police brutality, racial injustice and inequalities. I also wanted to show that these issues were not going unnoticed by the hockey community. I am incredibly thankful for my team’s support,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “I understand that this issue cannot be resolved overnight, nor can I do it alone.”

“I am done raising my fist,” he wrote. “I am now using this support, opportunity and platform to call out everyone who agreed or disagreed with me to help by sharing suggestions, continuing respectful conversations and looking for ways they too can help make a difference in their community,” he said.

What changed his mind? Outreach by the Tampa Bay PD.

Like NFL players, Brown was framing his protests as being against what he and they view as regular occurrences of police brutality, etc. After he began protesting, interim Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan invited him to attend a simulation to learn what police officers actually face.

Graciously, Brown accepted Dugan’s offer, and it changed his point of view.

“You see what they go through,” Brown told the Tampa Bay Times. “I have a better understanding, I can guarantee you that.”

The department took Brown through a course that is regularly offered to citizens where he took part in mock traffic stops and had to deal with a domestic violence report. He also participated in a computer simulation designed to help improve officers’ judgment regarding when to shoot and when not to do so.

“It was stressful,” Brown said.

Dugan praised Brown for taking the time to learn what officers deal with every single day.

“Hats off to him for being open-minded to come out there,” he said.

“I never did discuss with him about race and his fist,” Dugan said. “He can do whatever he wants to do. As a police department, we’ve always been supporting of people protesting peacefully. I just wanted to give him a different perspective. Not trying to change his mind, just wanted to educate him.”

“It’s a credit to J.T.,” Dugan continued. “He could have just raised his fist and spewed some stuff in the paper and not really acted on it. He’s probably going to do a ride-along with us in the streets when he can.”

Brown appeared grateful for the opportunity and appreciative of the department for taking the time.

“Together we can help teach these kids valuable life lessons,” Brown wrote. “I will also continue to explore new ways to get involved in the community to help build bridges and create rewarding relationships.”

Let’s see if any NFL players have the same guts and class to do what Brown did — put down their hate for a moment and open their minds to the possibility that maybe, just maybe, there’s a different perspective out there they’ve yet to consider.

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