Los Angeles Rams honor first responders, victims of recent tragedies at MNF game

LOS ANGELES — More than 3,000 first responders and people affected by the recent tragedies in Southern California were guests of the Los Angeles Rams for their Monday Night Football game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Rams’ training facility is located in Thousand Oaks, California, on the campus of Cal Lutheran, which is less than five miles from Borderline Bar and Grill, where 12 people were killed in a mass shooting on Nov. 7. The next day, the Woolsey Fire began and devastated a region that didn’t even have time to grieve. The fire burned 96,949 acres, killed three people, destroyed 1,452 structures and forced thousands to evacuate their homes in Ventura County and Los Angeles County.

When the Rams’ game on Monday was moved to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum from Mexico City due to the poor field conditions at Estadio Azteca, the Rams provided thousands of complimentary tickets to first responders as well as those impacted by the recent tragedies. The Rams said they worked through fire and law enforcement agencies and local organizations to ensure tickets got into the right hands.

“The Los Angeles Rams practice right there at Cal Lutheran University,” Ventura County Fire Department Captain Stan Ziegler said. “Many of our fire department members sneak over there and look over the fence and watch our home team practice. It’s exciting for us to be able to come here. It’s great to make that connection with our hometown team. You would not believe what it means to us.

“Many of our firefighters have been on the road for two weeks. They haven’t seen their families. They haven’t been able to go home. Just to be able to come to the Coliseum and relax and be amongst their brothers and sisters who are firefighters who have been in the battle with them and get a chance to relax and watch a football game and eat a hot dog is just a fantastic boost for our morale.”

The Rams, however, did more than give tickets to the game to first responders and victims.

Karen and Jordan Helus, wife and son of Ventura County Sheriff Sergeant Ron Helus, who was killed in the Borderline shooting, lit the Coliseum Torch prior to kickoff and were joined by Paige Vuksic, Jordan’s girlfriend, Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Ventura County Assistant Sheriff Chris Dunn and Ventura County Sheriff’s Sergeant Kevin Donoghue. A memorial banner with the names of the 12 Borderline shooting victims was positioned in the Peristyle end of the Coliseum.

“It was a devastating night, but when Ron went in there and gave his life, no one else died,” Thousand Oaks police Sgt. Jason Robarts said. “He paid the ultimate price, and it’s great that the Rams are honoring him and his family. The Rams are part of the community in Thousand Oaks, and these past few days have been the toughest physically and emotionally of my career.

“The next day after the shooting, we’re putting on another hat and putting our emotions aside and helping residents evacuate and putting out fires until the department got there. After that was done, it was funeral services, so it’s been a seven-day stretch I’ve never experienced before in my life.”

Dylan and Derek Adler, the sons of Sean Adler, who lost his life in the shooting at Borderline, served as the Rams’ honorary water boys for the game. Sean Adler was a wrestling coach at Royal High School in Simi Valley and a member of the security team at Borderline.

“I didn’t really expect anything,” said Dylan, who is 17 years old and a wide receiver on the Simi Valley High School varsity football team. “I was hoping to get through the memorial and go on with life as best as I can, and for them to contact us and for me to be on the sideline now is amazing. It makes me feel good that other people are looking out for me, and I didn’t expect any of that.”

“This is amazing … once in a lifetime experience,” added Derek, who is 12 years old. “My heart’s beating so fast, I’m so happy.”

Players and coaches from both the Rams and Chiefs wore hats honoring a variety of Los Angeles area fire and law enforcement agencies, including the California Highway Patrol, LAFD, LAPD, LA County Fire Department, Ventura County Fire Department and Ventura County Sheriff. The agency’s logo was on the front of the cap, and the team’s logo was on the side. The game-worn hats will be auctioned off after the game, with the proceeds going to the Conejo Valley Victims Fund and American Red Cross Southern California Wildfire Relief. Game-worn jerseys also will be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the relief efforts.

“You can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Ziegler, whose son, Jacob, knew two of the victims of the Borderline shooting. “We can see that when our percentages of containment start going up day after day. We know we’re getting a handle on this fire, and it’s just a matter of days. I believe the expected day of full containment is Nov. 22.”

Members of the Cal Lutheran Choir sang the national anthem while first responders and members of the greater L.A. community held a field-size American flag. Cal Lutheran alumnus and former choir member Justin Meek was one of the 12 victims of the Borderline shooting. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Department Honor Guard presented the colors during the national anthem.

The Rams also recognized firefighters during the game, and proceeds from the in-game 50/50 Raffle will benefit the Conejo Valley Victims Fund, American Red Cross Southern California Wildfire Relief and United Way of Greater Los Angeles.

Before the game, Rams Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson was on the field talking to several first responders and those affected by the fire. Dickerson, who lives in Calabasas, was evacuated from his home last week and hasn’t gone home yet due to the air quality.

“I’m still out of my house,” Dickerson said. “My neighbor’s house burned down. Thank God I still have a home, but it was close, but I’m not going to go back for a while. My son has asthma, and it’s really bad near my house, but I had to come tonight. I think it’s great that this game is in Los Angeles. We had the shooting and the fires the day after, and this city has been through so much. It’s great to take a break for a minute, catch your breath, and look around and appreciate what you have.”

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Cam Newton wears cleats honoring victims of Pittsburgh shooting

PITTSBURGH — Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton showed his support for the grieving city of Pittsburgh and his team’s owner by wearing black and gold warm-up cleats with “Hatred Can’t Weaken A City of Steel” on the side before Thursday night’s game against the Steelers.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger showed his support as well with cleats that said “Stronger Than Hate” and listed the names of the 11 people recently shot and killed by a gunman at Tree of Life synagogue.

Pittsburgh is the hometown of Carolina owner David Tepper, who was a minority owner of the Steelers before he purchased the Panthers earlier this year for $2.275 billion, a record for an NFL team.

While the site of the shooting wasn’t Tepper’s primary synagogue, he lived in the neighborhood near it while in graduate school at Carnegie Mellon University.

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Los Angeles Rams, Sean McVay send ‘thoughts and prayers’ to victims of Thousand Oaks shooting

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — The Los Angeles Rams and coach Sean McVay offered their condolences and support to the victims, families and community affected by the mass shooting Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks that killed 12 people.

The shooting took place just over 4 miles from the Rams’ practice facility, which is on the campus of California Lutheran University, and 7 miles from the team’s corporate headquarters in Agoura Hills.

“Our organization’s thoughts and prayers are with the families and the victims that were affected by this terrible act that took place in our area,” McVay said.

Many Rams players, coaches and staff members settled in the Thousand Oaks area after the team returned to Southern California from St. Louis in 2016.

“Our thoughts and prayers are obviously with the people that it happened to,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “It affects everybody, our team was talking about it, our players, our staff, everybody here. It’s a sad, sad deal. And we feel for the people involved, that it happened to.”

The Rams held a team meeting to discuss the tragedy. McVay said that left tackle Andrew Whitworth and several players were proactively seeking a way to use their platform to offer support to the local community.

One of the 12 victims of the shooting was identified as Ventura County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus, who arrived at the scene of the shooting at 11:20 p.m. in response to several 911 calls, heard gunfire, went inside and immediately was shot repeatedly.

The Rams plan to honor the victims with a moment of silence on Sunday before kickoff against the Seattle Seahawks at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

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Roethlisberger honors shooting victims with ‘Stronger than hate’ cleat – Pittsburgh Steelers Blog

BALTIMORE — Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wore specialized cleats paying tribute to the Tree of Life synagogue shooting victims during pregame warmups Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium.

Roethlisberger wore the cleats — which feature the words “Stronger Than Hate” and the Star of David inside the Steelers’ logo — while hugging each teammate during team stretching, his ritual for every game.

On Tuesday, Steelers players and staff members attended the joint funeral of brothers Cecil and David Rosenthal, who were among the 11 killed during the Oct. 27 shooting.

Michele Rosenthal, the sister of the two victims, used to be the Steelers’ community relations manager. Roethlisberger was among several players to mention Rosenthal by name after the Steelers’ 33-18 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday.

Coach Mike Tomlin lives in the neighborhood of Squirrel Hill, where the shooting took place.

“It was tough, it was crazy tough, especially with Michele and the closeness we have with her,” Roethlisberger said last Sunday. “We’re thankful for the victory, but we all understand, there are bigger things, there’s life.”

After Friday’s practice, Roethlisberger’s equipment bag was packed with two pairs of cleats — one for the pregame tribute, one black-and-gold pair for game action.

Players typically wear tribute cleats for pregame warmups only, or else they face a fine for an NFL uniform violation.

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Mike Evans of Tampa Bay Buccaneers helps Jacksonville shooting victims

TAMPA, Fla. — There was trash talk, laughter and most of all — it was the first time top Madden player Shay Kivlen had smiled in over a week.

The 21-year-old known as “Young Kiv” took on Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans in a Madden game Monday to raise funds for victims of the Jacksonville Madden shooting on Aug. 26.

Kivlen lost his best friend Elijah “Trueboy” Clayton, 22, and another close friend in Taylor “Spotmeplzzz” Robertson, 27, when David Katz, 24, of Maryland, opened fire at the “Madden NFL 19” qualifying tournament, fatally shooting both of them and wounding 11 others before taking his own life.

“It’s nice to see that even though there’s this bad seed, there’s all these good people in this world,” said Kivlen, who was at the tournament 20 minutes before and who was told by EA staffers he may have been one of Katz’s targets. “I just don’t want anyone to feel the pain that I have.”

Money raised from the event, which was livestreamed on Tiltify, will help both families, whom Kivlen has been in touch with, cover the costs of funeral expenses.

“It’s such a horrible thing that anyone should have to go through,” Kivlen said. “I just feel so bad for [Clayton and Robertson’s] families [and] the families of the people that are hurting.”

For Evans, it was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, even if he was admittedly rusty at the game.

“It means a lot [to help]. To be able to be in this position … having a platform like this, I will never take it for granted. I always try to help as much as I can.”

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Hue Jackson providing ‘safe place’ for human trafficking victims – Cleveland Browns Blog

CLEVELAND — Beau Hill strode through the hallway of the Cleveland Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Complex near downtown.

Hill, executive director of the Cleveland Salvation Army, was preparing to show a visitor a new facility built to take care of the victims of human trafficking. Asked what this 12-bed center meant to him, Hill was quick to respond: “It’s huuuuge.”

When Hill entered the facility, signs of recent work were evident. He stepped around scaffolding and through rooms that had recently had wallboards and spackling compounds added. He pointed to a living room, walked down the hall past a mini-kitchen and around a corner to three bedrooms where up to 12 women survivors of human trafficking could sleep.

The Hue Jackson Respite Services for Recovered Survivors of Human Trafficking will have its ribbon-cutting ceremony/grand opening July 17. Housed in the Cleveland Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Complex, it is largely funded by the Hue Jackson Foundation, which the Browns coach established with his wife Michelle a year ago.

“Michelle and I are very excited about the opportunity to assist survivors of human trafficking by helping to provide a place of respite,” Jackson said in a statement released through his foundation. “This ribbon cutting ceremony is more than a formality. It is a signal to the community we hope to help that there is a safe place to go and there are people who care.”

Kimberly Diemert, the foundation’s executive director, said the space will allow the women a chance to “go through their rebirth.”

“The goal is to give the women the control they need to regain their life and their sense of independence and self-worth,” Diemert said.

“This is the first step in a journey, a journey in making a difference in the life of the survivors of human trafficking,” said Major Thomas Applin, divisional secretary of the Cleveland Salvation Army.

The remodeled space will include a refreshment area, an activity area and a living room — all designed to give a sense of home. Services within the Harbor Light Complex include counseling and 24-hour nursing care as well as medically supervised drug and alcohol detoxification and outpatient therapy.

Planning for the space stressed safety and security for residents while giving women the freedom that was taken from them, in a place they can call home for as long as they need to.

Jackson said he and Michelle chose human trafficking as the foundation’s focus because they have seen the problem and its effects “first-hand.”

The foundation provided $250,000 toward the renovations — which included money Jackson raised when he jumped into Lake Erie in June with about 150 other members of the Browns organization.

No requirements will be placed on residents, in part to allow them to gain a control of a life that was missing when they were being trafficked. Hill said most victims are referred through law enforcement or rape crisis centers.

In 2016, Ohio ranked fourth in the nation in human trafficking, Hill said. However, that number barely touches the scope of the issue because many women fear coming forward and many victims have not been identified. Diemert said in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County, 89 victims have come forward to law enforcement this year, but that figure barely accounts for the total number of survivors and victims.

Hill said the respite center is “absolutely critical” for the women’s ability to continue their recovery.

Operational costs are provided by local donations, and Diemert said Jackson’s foundation has pledged its continued support. Future foundation efforts could involve community outreach or education about trafficking as well as raising funds to help the Salvation Army and other agencies working in human trafficking.

Because the respite center is staffed 24 hours day, those costs could be as much $400,000 to $500,000 annually, Hill said. In 2017 the Harbor Light Complex provided 147,472 nights of service to the needy (homeless, those dealing with substance abuse), and served 421,638 meals.

“Numbers are important to the community,” Applin said. “They want to know how many people you’re serving. But the reality is it’s one by one. One person is important.

“One person is worth doing the program if you’re going to save their life.”

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J.J. Watt of Houston Texans will pay for funerals of Santa Fe High School shooting victims

HOUSTON — Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt will pay for the funerals of those killed in the shooting at Santa Fe High School, the team confirmed.

Ten people were killed Friday morning and 10 more wounded after a 17-year-old carrying a shotgun and revolver opened fire at the high school about 30 miles from downtown Houston.

According to Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, nine of the victims were students. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting “one of the most heinous attacks that we’ve ever seen in the history of Texas schools.”

According to police officials, the 17-year-old is in custody and has been charged with capital murder, and a second person has been detained.

Shortly after the shooting, Watt tweeted, “Absolutely horrific.”

Watt has been active in the surrounding community since he was drafted by Houston in 2011. Most notably, he started a fundraiser last August that raised more than $37 million for those affected by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey.

The Texans also released a statement.

“On behalf of the Texans organization, we are saddened by the tragic events at Sante Fe High School this morning and extend our thoughts and heartfelt condolences to the victims, their families and all those affected. We are grateful for the brave first responders, law enforcement officials and medical personnel. The Texans family will continue to pray for our neighbors.”

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