By Eric T. Pate, For The African-American Athlete,
For the past to seasons, protests against police brutality has permeated the National Football League like quarterbacks throwing TD passes. Players, normally quick-reactors, have been faced with a question that has put their American loyalty and patriotism in question – to kneel or to stand?
Thanks to the NFL’s pro-military marketing designed to stimulate its fan base and a very boisterous voice in the White House, the main issue has been smothered. And police brutality and social injustice, the very issue that took Colin Kaepernick to his knee in protest, has been vastly overlooked.
“What to do?,’’ many NFL players have pondered.
Well, Cameron Gordon – a recently-retired former NFL linebacker – knows just what to do: Get involved. After brief stints with mostly the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs, Gordon was encouraged to apply for the Michigan State Police.
Currently, Gordon is in his 21st week of the 26-week MSP Training Academy.
“It’s exciting, a new journey in my life,’’ said Gordon, who was part of the Super Bowl XLIX Champion Patriots that defeated the Seattle Seahawks. “It’s crazy how I’m getting through the academy. It doesn’t take a genius, but you have to be all in. I’m committed…’’
A former University of Michigan standout at safety and linebacker, Gordon is a 26-year-old with a plan.
There are no “what ifs’’ or regrets, Gordon said. But if he were still on an NFL active roster, Gordon’s anthem stance was stated clearly and without hesitation.
“There’s a good chance that I would kneel because I understand what they’re fighting for,’’ Gordon said. “My younger cousin had to deal with (police harassment). After that situation, my cousin was affected. That’s my whole take…It’s a 99 percent chance that I would be kneeling because it’s an opportunity to speak up for people who have not been heard.
“(The NFL players) are not sticking up a middle finger to the flag…that’s not what this is about.’’
Here’s hoping that Gordon continues to excel and graduates from the MSP Academy and becomes a state trooper.
Simply put, the MSP ranks have been lily-white. Here’s some shocking data: The 59 blacks among the 1,134 Michigan State Police troopers represent less than half the number the state police had when a federal consent decree was lifted in 1993.
Gordon seeks to not only change the MSP data, but make a difference in his community.
“A police officer is supposed to be looked up to,’’ said Gordon, whose brother is a Detroit Police officer. “In the neighborhood I grew up in, we thought if police came it was about to be bad; I want to add good to it, change the perception.’’
Entering this new career and having been raised on Detroit’s west side, Gordon brings some perspective.
Though he admits that he’s never been harassed by law enforcement, Gordon’s younger cousin has. After hearing about his cousin’s situation, Gordon was even more driven to change the conditions.
My cousin was taking my (grandmother’s) trash out and the police randomly stopped him,’’ Gordon said. “(The officers) said there had been some burglaries in the area.’’
Ultimately, Gordon’s first cousin was charged with carrying an unregistered gun, which is a crime punishable by a maximum sentence of five years in prison. To avoid jail time, he pled guilty, Gordon said.
“He had protection on him, but it appeared to be racially profiled,’’ Gordon said. “He shouldn’t have been stopped, the neighborhood isn’t good, but he shouldn’t be deemed a criminal.’’
Gordon’s pursuits of a law enforcement career have left him eager to make a change.
Moreover, he has remained in touch with the unnerving trend of unarmed Blacks being killed at the hands of police officers. The lives of Philando Castile, Sandra Bland and Eric Garner – to name a few – matter in Gordon’s eyes.
The tragedies have made him want to become even more proactive.
“It brings a heavy heart, to tell you the truth,’’ Gordon said. “I’m not a critic, who claims to know everything, but I feel for (the victims’) family, friends, and I understand the mindset that people who feel like it might happen to them…It definitely affects me, it gets me to a point where I’m asking how I can be a part of the solution. It should make a person want to get involved.’’
The intensity of the position can be intimidating and scary, especially for the friends and family of the officer. In Gordon’s case, there is no difference.
However, Ame McCree-Hatcher, his fiancée, is fearless.
“We definitely need more people like Cameron because he’s got a good heart,’’ McCree-Hatcher said. “Just knowing that someone like him is out there trying to make the world a better place puts me at ease. He’s a go-getter. He’s been 100 percent invested in this.’’
Despite his sensitivity toward the community at-large, Gordon is confident of what his future holds as a MSP trooper.
Gordon said: “I don’t know how the job’s going to turn out, but I feel like we always have to know that we need to do better.’’