Irresponsible Coaching

Orlando “Doc” Gooden of Belleville, IL, head coach of Cahokia Quarterback football team; encouraged his players to kneel for the national anthem at their football games. The kicker, the players are all under eight-years-old. YES, UNDER eight-years-old! Gooden stated that the children were asking him about the riots in nearby St. Louis, and why they were occurring. Here is some back story.

In 2011 St. Louis Police Officer Jason Stockley shot and killed Anthony Lamar Smith. Smith led police on a high speed chase, after they attempted to stop him for suspected drugs. As a result, Smith hit a police SUV. Smith was on parole and already had previous convictions for drugs (Heroin), and unlawful possession of a firearm. After the shooting officers recovered a silver revolver right next to Smith’s body. Stockley was found not guilty of murder. Now understand that Stockley did in fact violate St. Louis Police Department policy, however he did not violate the laws of the State of Illinois. Stockley was terminated based on those violations, as he should have been.

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Ok so now that we know that this was a justified officer involved shooting, and that Officer Stockley justifiably had a reason to fear for his life from this convicted criminal, lets talk about how in the hell it’s ok to push inaccurate information onto 8-year-olds. “Doc” Gooden claims he spoke to the group of children about Colin Kaepernick, the football player who started kneeling for the anthem to protest what he views as systematic racism in the legal system. We won’t kid ourselves, there is racism, and we know it exists, and rather than coming together to attempt to fix these issues, there are those blaming officers for justified shootings, rioting, looting, and setting terrible examples for children.

As a coach, this man was in a fantastic position to use this as a teachable moment. Gooden SHOULD HAVE discussed the importance of following the law, leading a healthy, respectful lifestyle, and respecting authority. Gooden easily could have invited an officer from his town to come and speak to these impressionable young boys about how important it is to stay clean, do good in school, choose the right friends, stay active in their communities, and be bridge builders to a more peaceful society. Instead, he encouraged them to kneel for the flag. Yes, I know it is all part of their 1st amendment rights, but I also know that many men and women fought and died for the flag, when they arrive home in a coffin draped with our nation’s colors, it doesn’t matter whether they are black or white, male or female, gay or straight, transgendered, or not. There is a hero’s body in that coffin, and as such deserves the utmost respect.

Gooden should be ashamed for encouraging a false narrative of injustice. It is an honor to serve under the flag of the United States, and he should be encouraging that mindset. Gooden should be active in telling these boys that 99.999999% of police officers are trying to make a difference in their communities, and be helpful, positive role models for the children. The truth is while there is racism within the justice system, it certainly is not as widespread and systematic as many of these protesters would have you believe. Good, honest, dedicated police officers are in fact coming forward to report those officers who are the bad apples, maybe not in the mainstream media, because lets face it, that’s just not how they operate. These officers are going to their bosses, IA, and also self-policing their departments. These officer’s don’t want the bad apples on their force anymore than the rest of society does.

“Doc” Gooden should be ashamed of himself. He had the chance to make a positive difference in his community, and failed. He failed the boys he coaches, the community in which he lives and works, and himself. I would welcome the opportunity to speak with, and to these boys with officers, and veterans, to show them that more comes out of positivity and community building, than tearing down neighborhoods, being destructive, and causing violence.  These are some of the attitudes that need to be changed, as in the end, all they cause are more segregation, and we need to be focusing on inclusion.

Marissa Cullen is the wife of a police officer, an Air Force veteran, and a stay at home mom to 2 boys. She is a contributing writer on various Law Enforcement publications, a outspoken supporter of public safety and the owner of Behind The Thin Blue Line, a law enforcement advocacy group. Marissa is a speaker to many law enforcement groups and their families on the challenges and joys of being part of the thin blue line. She is also graduate of the University of New Haven.