Players Coalition asks Congress to end qualified immunity

Nathan Fenno
Saints quarterback Drew Brees, greeting then 49er Colin Kaepernick after a game in 2016, signed the Players Coalition letter asking Congress to pass legislation to eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement and public officials.  (D. Ross Cameron / Associated Press)

More than 1,400 professional athletes, coaches and executives signed a letter asking Congress to pass legislation to eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement and other public officials.

The Players Coalition, a nonprofit founded in 2017 by New Orleans Saints defensive back Malcolm Jenkins and retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin to advocate for social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels, delivered the letter Wednesday.

Athletes from the NFL, NBA and MLB signed the letter. They include quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Dak Prescott; Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Emmitt Smith; Giancarlo Stanton of the New York Yankees and Alex Bregman of the Houston Astros; and San Antonio Spurs head coach and general manager Gregg Popovich.

“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,” the letter said.

“There is a problem. The world witnessed it when Officer [Derek] 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 the time for change.”

The five paragraphs support the passage of a bill introduced by Reps. Justin Amash (L-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) to end qualified immunity.

The court-created doctrine generally shields public officials, including law enforcement, from personal liability when sued for monetary damages unless the plaintiff shows the official violated “clearly established” federal law.

“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 letter said. “The law, as one author has noted, is a ‘bulwark of American liberty.’”