On October 8, Tampa Bay Lightning forward JT Brown raised his fist in the air during the National Anthem at the height of the movement across professional sports. His silent protest just one of many athletes saying they are protesting racial injustice and police brutality.
Brown, one of a few more than 30 African American players in the NHL, later posted to twitter, tweeting in part, “I want to reiterate that this is not and has never been about the military or disrespecting the flag. It is about police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in this country.”
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
-Martin Luther King Jr. pic.twitter.com/Ql2vEFwl5E
— Jt brownov (@JTBrown23) October 8, 2017
"I wanted to make sure that the action was the most important part,” said Brown. “Not just the symbol of what I did. But what I did moving forward."
More than a month later, ABC Action News talked to Brown and newly appointed Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan. Chief Dugan said Brown has proven this was more than a demonstration and a twitter post with a promise of change.
"He said he was against police brutality... and I told so was I,” said Chief Dugan. “But then he acted. Four days later, he’s out at the police academy."
Chief Dugan said Brown has participated in several activities with the department including the Citizen’s Academy, taken part in meetings and even ride alongs. The goal here is to put himself in the shoes of Tampa’s men and women in blue.
Then Halloween came and police were looking for a killer in Seminole Heights. A killer that strikes at night. Brown called Chief Dugan and said he wanted to be there. He brought some of his athlete friends with him. The likes of Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Chris Archer and WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil.
"At the end of the night, the cops and the athletes are trying to get together and kids are jumping in with us. They really brought everyone together and it was phenomenal," said Chief Dugan.
The two agree, this is a process, but they also agree the new partnership is helping the city move in the right direction.
"We're all people. We have to remember that,” said Brown. “They have a tough job and we know that and being able to go on their side you get to see a little bit of that first hand."
"I think what we have to look at is if he doesn’t raise his fist, then I don’t reach out to him and this doesn’t happen,” said Chief Dugan.