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Players meet with Governor about criminal justice reform

The NFL and the NFL Players Association are having ongoing discussions about how to handle the protests about how minorities are treated in this country that have taken place during the national anthem. But Tuesday, announced via a tweet from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, three Cardinals -- defensive tackle Corey Peters, safety Antoine Bethea and safety Tre Boston -- took part in a discussion about criminal justice reform with Ducey. Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill, who is close with Ducey and who has had ongoing talks with Cardinals players ever since last season about these topics, was also at the meeting.

I hope to talk to at least one of the players later on today after practice, but it was good to see that the players are being heard. It isn't difficult to find the statistics that minorities make up almost 42 percent of the prison system, which is disproportionate to the population at large. Ducey's tweet noted the discussion about reducing the prison population in Arizona and providing a true second chance for those who get out of prison.

For the players who have protested, the treatment of minorities is at the heart of their dissent. Meetings like Tuesday can only move the discussion forward, which is encouraging to see for everyone involved.

UPDATE: Peters noted how the discussions started last year, within the team and with Bidwill. He said Bidwill pledged to help get some of the issues the players were concerned about to difference-makers in the state. There have been meetings with congresspeople, and now the Governor. It went beyond just criminal justice, Peters added, saying they also talked about police-community relationships and trying to find common ground for things being done and things players would like to see be done to help in this regard.

"We definitely had an opportunity to express how we felt about certain things, and I'm excited to see what comes of it," Peters said.

There had been an earlier meeting in the day Tuesday, Peters said, at the team facility that included Patrick Peterson and Jermaine Gresham.

"The big thing is to come to an understanding, understanding the shoes they are in," Boston said. "This might have been someone who didn't have a chance from Day One. What we call a second chance might be a first chance in life. Grew up, maybe no mother, no father, no guidance. These are the people we are trying to help."

Peters said Bidwill has been the catalyst for setting conversations up -- "I'm thankful to him," Peters said -- and there are ongoing talks about eventually creating and taking part in community programs. Peters said Bidwill has already agreed to donate money and the players plan to donate some of their own money and making a "real, tangible difference."

It's a step in the right direction, addressing things for which players have tried to draw attention to through various forms during the national anthem at games.

"Frankly, the information is out there," Peters said. "The people who choose to make the protests something that it's not, that's their prerogative. I think at this point, if you don't understand it, you're not trying to understand it.

"These issues are huge in our community. You look around this locker room, it's largely African-American. We all come from communities where these things affect us disproportionately than other communities."

At this point, Bethea said, it should not be hard to see what the players are trying to accomplish.

"We are all smart here," Bethea said. "We all know what the issue is. People don't want to admit it, but we are all human beings, we all live in this world. We all see what happens, especially with the camera phones nowadays. We all know there is inequality in this world. We can't be naïve to that (although) if you want to be, that's your personal prerogative.

"We know it's a problem, and we were able to sit there and talk about those problems."

Cardinals players Corey Peters, Antoine Bethea and (on the other side of the table) Tre Boston discuss criminal justice reform with Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday.
Cardinals players Corey Peters, Antoine Bethea and (on the other side of the table) Tre Boston discuss criminal justice reform with Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday.

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