Southeast Missouri State football coach Tom Matukewicz was out of town on vacation with his family when he woke up to the news that five Dallas Police Officers had been shot and killed by snipers during a peaceful protest.
That had come on the heels of the shooting deaths of two African-American men by police officers.
So Matukewicz reached out to the players that comprise the team’s leadership council, asking for thoughts on what they thought the team could do.
It was quarterback Dante Vandeven that responded with a cops vs. Redhawks flag football game, which was approved by other members of the team and Southeast administrators before Matukewicz posted a tweet that read, “Hey @CapePolice with what’s going on in America right now. How about a flag football game? SEMO football vs the Cops? [Message] if interested.”
The tweet elicited an immediate response from the Cape Girardeau Police Department’s Twitter account, and on Tuesday morning the “Cops and Hawks Bowl” received NCAA approval.
The free event will be held at Houck Stadium on July 21, starting at 6 p.m. A GoFundMe Account will be set up and donations will be accepted at the event to raise money for The Backstoppers organization, which helps provide assistance to the families of fallen first responders.
There will be four teams with Redhawks and law enforcement personnel intermingled because, “the players thought it would be better if they were on the same team [as the cops].”
“When good people don’t do anything, evil prevails,” Matukewicz said. “So you can sit here and do nothing or you can pop off on Twitter or social media, but we need to do something. I’m not black. I’m not a cop. But I know what a good football team looks like, and when a good football team’s together and they look to their buddy to the right they don’t see color. They see, ‘Is this guy going to block for me? Is this guy going to tackle somebody for me?’ I think we should be an example for people. We don’t look at that. We judge them on whether they’re a good teammate or not. I think that’s what we should do, and that’s what this event, hopefully, will be all about.
“One of the foundations of this program is community service, trying to be a difference maker in the community, and so I feel like this is a great opportunity. We have a large African American population on the team and then they can then go out to their circles and hopefully we can impact the campus.”
While the initial request was issued to the Cape Girardeau police, Matukewicz said all law enforcement in the area is welcome from Jackson Police to the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff’s Office and Southeast’s Department of Public Safety.
There will be a dinner afterward for participants, at which Chief of Police Wes Blair will speak.
Southeast coaches are unable to participate with the actual games due to NCAA rules, so there will be four honorary coaches who will be named at a later date.