Philadelphia is a sports city, and the Eagles are its crown jewels. The night the NFL team qualified for the Super Bowl, residents characteristically filled the streets in an outpouring of joy, shouting and singing the fight song, doing donuts in their cars while bystanders cheered, and, obviously, climbing poles around City Hall that had been greased in vain. (Mind you, this was just the Eagles qualifying — several people I talked to characterized the celebrations as “pretty calm.”)
In the two weeks since, Philadelphia’s excitement has been on stark display: “Go Birds” has been an acceptable answer to roll call at jury duty; local school districts are giving students a two-hour delay on Monday following the big game; and you can’t walk down the street without seeing someone wearing Eagles gear. It’s a unity that shows how much more Philadelphia is than the unrelenting gun violence that claims hundreds of lives each year.
Still, the violence is there, something the Eagles themselves recognize. Last year, the team partnered with the city for a campaign aimed at combating shootings in Philadelphia. Last month, as part of the campaign, the team donated more than $400,000 to local violence prevention and financial education organizations. During Gun Violence Survivors Week, the team published a video featuring a reading by spoken-word poet Ja’Nell Hall-Ragin, a Philadelphian who lost her brother to gun violence. Quarterback Jalen Hurts surprised classmates of Nicolas Elizalde, the 14-year-old football player killed in a shooting last year, with a visit to their school in December: “They find a lot of joy in what I do on the field, so I hold that in high regard,” Hurts told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s definitely on my mind when I’m out there playing.”
This work isn’t just a bid for positive PR. The Eagles mean something to Philadelphia, and the team has the platform, money, and clout to make a difference in a city that saw more than 500 homicides in 2022 for the second year in a row. It means something that they’re trying — it shows that the Eagles love Philadelphia as much as Philadelphia loves the Eagles.
“I know every single one of those kids [affected by gun violence], they look up to … guys like us,” running back Miles Sanders told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I actually came from that type of environment. So hopefully when I’m out there balling, [they] can say, ‘he was one of us.’”
If you or people you know have been affected by gun violence in Philadelphia, you can find free tools, resources, and people who can help you navigate your community at Up The Block, a project from The Trace. If you have suggestions or story tips about gun violence in Philadelphia, you can get in touch with our Philly community engagement reporter, Afea Tucker, via this survey.
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What to Know This Week
The man who killed 23 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019 pleaded guilty to 90 federal hate crime and weapons charges. He will be sentenced in June. [El Paso Matters]
Atlanta Police released body camera footage of their response to the January 18 shooting of an activist protesting the proposed site for a public safety training facility dubbed “Cop City.” Attorneys for the activist’s family said last week that a private autopsy showed that he had been shot at least a dozen times. [WABE]
There was no “Great Reckoning” in American law enforcement after police killed George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery in the summer of 2020, and protesters nationwide called for racial justice. Tyre Nichols’s death after a brutal beating by Memphis Police shows that despite widespread outrage and calls for reform, nothing has changed. [The Atlantic]
A member of the Milford, New Jersey, borough council was shot and killed exactly one week after Eunice Dwumfour, a council member in Sayreville, was found shot to death in her car. Police say the shootings were unrelated, and prosecutors announced that the Milford shooting was not politically motivated. [CBS News]
A Democrat-sponsored, NRA-endorsed gun safety bill passed the Virginia House of Delegates in a landslide. The rare bipartisan legislation would let gun owners write off up to $300 in state taxes for purchasing safe storage equipment. [Axios]
The leader of a violent neo-Nazi group and his girlfriend were arrested for allegedly plotting an attack on the Maryland power grid. Prosecutors say they planned to attack five Baltimore substations with gunfire. [The Washington Post]
President Joe Biden promised to strengthen America’s firearm export rules. He hasn’t delivered. [The Intercept]
Officials for the city of Vallejo, California, intentionally destroyed records in multiple police shootings in January 2021, shortly before they were set to be disclosed under state sunshine laws. The purge was revealed via an open records lawsuit against the city that also found a pattern of anti-transparency practices. [Open Vallejo]
Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez, whose district includes Uvalde, introduced legislation that would direct the Texas Department of Public Safety to create mass shooting training for all public safety entities. [The Texas Tribune] Context: Since the Robb Elementary School massacre, Uvalde residents have continued to pressure Texas officials to address gun access.
The Kansas Senate is considering a bill that would require schools to offer gun safety classes based on the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program, which instructs kids not to touch firearms. [Kansas Legislature] Context: There’s no evidence that the NRA’s approach works, and the academic who designed the Eddie Eagle program has said that the gun group is misusing it.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico, crisis responders in the Community Safety Department now field most calls related to mental health and homelessness. It’s part of an effort to stem police violence — Albuquerque’s force has the country’s second-highest fatal shooting rate — but there are limits to what the department can do. [The New Yorker]
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Tyz’Juan James, 20, was a social butterfly who “always had a story to tell,” his sister told The Oregonian. James, who had survived a shooting that left his mother dead when he was an infant, was killed Saturday in a bar parking lot in Portland, Oregon. He liked fashion and basketball, making rap music and singing. And “he loved the houseless community,” his girlfriend told a local TV station — since he was a kid, he’d join his grandmother to bring food and clothing to homeless people. James was generous with his love, she said: “At the end of the day, at any conversation, when you left Tyz’Juan he would tell you that he loved you. I love you granny, I love you sis, no matter if the conversation ended in a way that neither one of us wanted to. He would always end it with ‘I love you.’”
“Cecilia Mannion has dedicated her life to helping victims of gang violence in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood. Mannion, a former gang member herself, works for a nonprofit organization called Enlace. Her title is victim advocate. Basically, if you’re shot in Little Village, she shows up to try and help, to minimize the harm. … She is part of a growing army of former gang members working to prevent shootings and help gun violence victims.” [“Motive,” from WBEZ]
“We don’t have much joy anymore, but Sundays help us.”Marge LaRue, Nicolas Elizalde’s aunt, on watching the Eagles after her nephew’s murder, to The Philadelphia Inquirer