BOSTON (CBS) — Last week, Massachusetts congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Michigan congressman Justin Amash introduced the Ending Qualified Immunity Act to Congress, an effort aimed at changing a system that allows police offers to “escape accountability when they break the law.”
On Wednesday, The Players’ Coalition urged Congress to pass the act, in a letter that included more than 1,400 athletes, coaches and executives.
“We are tired of conversations around police accountability that go nowhere, and we have engaged in too many ‘listening sessions’ where we discuss whether there is a problem of police violence in this country. There is a problem,” the letter stated. “The world witnessed it when Officer Chauvin murdered George Floyd, and the world is watching it now, as officers deploy enormous force on peaceful protesters like those who were standing outside of the White House last week. The time for debate about the unchecked authority of the police is over; it is now time for change.”
Today, on behalf of 1100+ athletes & coaches and 300+ front office personnel across the @NFL @NBA & @MLB, we urge Congress to pass the Ending Qualified Immunity Act, introduced by @justinamash & @AyannaPressley
We demand accountability for police brutality. It's time for change. pic.twitter.com/ro7eRmvSK6
— PlayersCoalition (@playercoalition) June 10, 2020
Among the many, many people to sign the letter were 24 current members of the Patriots, including the McCourty twins, Jarrett Stidham, Dont’a Hightower, Mohamed Sanu and Matthew Slater.
The long list also included some former Patriots, most notably Tom Brady.
Current Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio’s name was included among the executives supporting the letter.
Active Patriots On The Letter
Former Patriots On The Letter
The letter was also signed by big-name quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Baker Mayfield, Carson Wentz, Joe Burrow and Dak Prescott.
The Players Coalition was founded in 2017 by Anquan Boldin and Malcolm Jenkins, with the goal of “making an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.” The Coalition recently called for the FBI to investigate the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Wednesday’s letter included signatures from people involved with the NFL, NBA and MLB.
“Congress passed the Ku Klux Klan Act in 1871 to give ordinary citizens recourse when powerful public officials violate constitutional rights,” the letter stated. “By passing that Act, codified in 42 U.S.C. 1983, Congress told its citizenry that no one is above the law, especially those who abuse government power. A healthy democracy requires no less; citizens must know that if those who promise to uphold the law and protect the community fail to do so, there is a remedy available. The law, as one author has noted, is ‘a bulwark of American liberty.'”
The letter continues: “The Supreme Court has caused irreparable harm to public trust by creating and then expanding the doctrine of qualified immunity, which often exempts police officers and others from liability, even for shocking abuse. Under that doctrine, first developed in 1967 and widened ever since, plaintiffs must show that government officials violated ‘clearly established’ law to receive damages for harm. A plaintiff wins only if a prior Court found an official liable under a nearly identical fact-pattern. This standard is virtually impossible to meet, and the protections promised under section 1983 seem largely symbolic as a result.”
The Act, introduced by both Pressley and Justin Amash (L-Mich.), was created “in response to heinous and unjust acts of police misconduct, including the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.”
“Qualified immunity has shielded some of the worst law enforcement officials in America,” The Players Coalition letter stated. “The 8th Circuit applied it to an officer who wrapped a woman in a bear hug, slammed her to the ground, and broke her collarbone as she walked away from him. The 9th Circuit applied the doctrine to two officers who allegedly stole $225,000 while executing a search warrant. The Eleventh Circuit applied the doctrine to protect an officer who uninentionally shot a ten-year-old boy while firing at the family dog (who, much like the child, posed no threat). The list of officers who suffered no consequences because of this doctrine could fill a law book.”
The letter concluded: “It is time for Congress to eliminate qualified immunity, and it can do so by passing the Amash-Pressley bill. When police officers kill an unarmed man, when they beat a woman, or when they shoot a child, the people of this country must have a way to hold them accountable in a court of law. And officers must know that if they act in such a manner, there will be repercussions. A legal system that does not provide such a recourse is an illegitimate one. In their grief, people have taken to the streets because for too long, their government has failed to protect them. The Courts and elected officials alike have instead shielded people who caused unspeakable harm. Congress must not be complicit in these injustices, and it should take this important step to show that law enforcement abuse will not be tolerated.”