Former Palm Beach Gardens cop Nouman Raja killed South Florida drummer Corey Jones in October 2015. A state jury convicted Raja on charges of manslaughter and attempted first-degree murder in March 2019.
The case could not have been more clear-cut: Raja, wearing plainclothes and driving an unmarked van, rolled up to Jones' car and shot the young black man to death for no apparent reason. Yet the nation's largest police union — the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) — is already complaining about an ad, set to air during the Super Bowl, that discusses Jones' case. The FOP suggests the TV spot could lead to cops' being "defamed."
The ad — which stars retired NFL great Anquan Boldin, who is Jones' cousin — already aired two weeks ago during the NFL's NFC Championship Game. In the spot, Boldin reenacts the events that led to Jones' death while narrating how it felt to learn his cousin had been shot to death by a cop. The ad, which will air again on Super Bowl Sunday, is a PSA for the Players Coalition, an initiative Boldin founded with Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement and quarterback Colin Kaepernick's ongoing protests for black rights in America.
"There's just some things that are bigger than football," Boldin explains in the PSA. "And I felt like starting the Players Coalition, and effecting change in this country is one of those things."
Jones, then 31 years old, was fatally shot in October 2015, not long after the prominent police-involved killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner had jumpstarted the Black Lives Matter movement a year earlier. As New Times later recounted in a long-form feature story, Jones' case was particularly egregious: The night he was killed, the drummer was returning from a gig when his silver Hyundai Santa Fe broke down on I-95 near the exit for PGA Boulevard. Jones didn't want to leave his drumming equipment behind in his SUV, so he sat and waited for a tow truck to arrive. Jones amazingly wound up calling AT&T Roadside Assistance right as Officer Raja arrived, and AT&T recorded the entire exchange.
Raja arrived in plainclothes, and the recording did not catch him identifying himself as a cop. Instead, Raja announced that Jones needed to get his "fucking hands up." Jones had been carrying a legally licensed pistol that night. It's unclear what happened next, but Jones ran and Raja shot him six times. Raja later became the first police officer convicted of an on-duty shooting death in Florida since 1989. He's now appealing aspects of his case.
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Even though Raja is now a convicted killer, the national Fraternal Order of Police this week released a statement bellyaching about the Players Coalition ad. While FOP president Patrick Yoes lauded Boldin for trying to improve relations between cops and their local communities, Yoes suggested the single ad — amid the orgy of cops, soldiers, fighter jets, and flags that is the Super Bowl at large — besmirches the good name of law enforcement officers.
"In order to achieve total success in this venture, all parties must be willing to open a dialogue and work together to avoid unintentional consequences caused by messaging that defames the nobility of the many brave men and women of law enforcement," Yoes said this week.
The FOP is willing to meet w/ any organization that wants to have a productive, fact-based conversation re: issues affecting our communities & how to build bridges between the police & the community. We look forward to a meaningful dialogue with @NFL to effect positive changes. pic.twitter.com/mNGz0lI3QN— National FOP (@GLFOP) January 30, 2020
This is not the first time a Fraternal Order of Police chapter has been upset over the Super Bowl. In 2016, now-suspended Miami police officer and then-union boss Javier Ortiz tried to get cops everywhere to boycott Beyoncé after Ortiz became upset that she referenced the Black Panthers in her Super Bowl halftime performance. Ortiz's effort failed.