With tension still running high in Ferguson, Mo., following the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown last week, the NFL’s St. Louis Rams reached out to three local high school football teams to offer them free tickets to a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers this past weekend.
In Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” column for TheMMQB.com, he shared this dispatch from his colleague Robert Klemko, who is reporting live from Ferguson:
Watching the violence over Michael Brown’s killing unfold in Ferguson last week, a Rams staffer thought of the high schoolers, specifically, the boys who are supposed to play in their first football game of the season this weekend. Rams manager of fan development & alumni relations Kyle Eversgerd put in a call to coaches at McCluer High, McCluer North and McCluer South; there would be 75 free tickets awaiting each team if they chose to come to Saturday’s preseason game at the Edward Jones Dome.
“In light of everything going on it just kind of hit me,” says Eversgerd, whose job includes outreach with local high schools. “I can’t imagine with all that stuff going on, how tough it must be to practice. We were able to get them away from it all.”
Thus, while protests erupted in violence on Saturday evening, leaving one person critically injured from gunshot wounds and resulting in seven arrests, the teens were away from the mayhem, soaking up the experience of an NFL preseason game.
“It was overwhelming to see the NFL live, for real,” McCluer senior running back Henry Jones told Klemko. “You saw how fast they played, and how they played together. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I could actually see myself out there playing.”
Unfortunately, the Rams’ kind gesture may only wind up being a temporary reprieve for the young football players in the Ferguson community.
The Ferguson-Florissant school district, which all three McCluer high schools are a part of, was originally scheduled to open this past Thursday. However, citing the “continuing unrest” in the community, the district decided Wednesday to delay the first day until Monday, per my colleague Evie Blad.
On Sunday night, the district changed course again, posting an announcement on its website that all schools would be closed on Monday, too.
“Information we have received from officials on the scene late Sunday evening has contributed to concerns we have about children walking to school or waiting for buses on streets impacted by this activity, debris on roads that could impact transportation, and continued disruption affecting our students and families in the area,” the announcement read.
For more on the ongoing conflict in Ferguson, stay tuned to our Rules for Engagement blog.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.