Fort Worth Star-Telegram:- Botham Jean lived in relative obscurity before he was shot by Amber Guyger, a former Dallas police officer later sentenced to 10 years in prison for his murder.
But in death, Jean instantly became famous and is destined to become more famous. The Botham Jean Foundation is the subject of a two-minute spot the National Football League plans to air during Super Bowl LIV and which has been available on YouTube and other social media sites since Jan. 22.
The ad highlights the BothamJeanFoundation.org, says the words “We are in this together” and uses the hashtags #EveryonesChild and #InspireChange. At 6 p.m. Friday, the video had already received more than 8.7 million views on Twitter.
Despite the message, more than 3,500 retweets and in excess of 14,400 likes, it is evident that the NFL spot has not been met with a universal outpouring of support.
The Jean Foundation Super Bowl ad appears to be an attempt to re-assert the essence of a man who was robbed of his humanity in death and who has subsequently become a symbol.
One facet of the symbol Botham Jean has become is a historic pain that is as wide as it is deep and that is all-encompassing.
The tweets that seem critical of the league’s efforts are manifestations of that pain, said Kyev Tatum, a Fort Worth activist and church pastor.
If the league continues on its present course, the team owners should not expect universal trust, but should expect to spend the remainder of their lives committed to reversing a constellation of problems which they once universally ignored, Tatum said.
The pain that has been weathered is great, but grace must be a part of the healing process, Tatum said.
“To have this man’s life story being told around the world at this point is a very significant plus for those who have been fighting against the over-policing of the black community,” he said. “We did not get over slavery or Jim Crow overnight, and we will not get over police brutality overnight. The young people who have worked on this are to be commended, as is the NFL.”
The video starts with the Jean family extolling their murdered relative’s virtues as a child, as a man and as an ascendant spirit.
“He just loved people and he was very particular about the company he kept. So I felt he was not in harm’s way,” his mother, Allison Jean, is heard saying during the video.
The reasons Botham Jean was killed are, even after an exhaustive Dallas murder trial, at best, unsatisfying.
Jean, a 26-year-old rising star at the accounting-consulting firm of Price, Waterhouse, Cooper, was sitting in his living room eating ice cream and watching television when Guyger, an off-duty Dallas police officer coming home from work, shot him on Sept. 6, 2018.
Guyger testified that when she shot Jean she believed he was an intruder inside her apartment and was there to harm her. Guyger had actually entered Jean’s apartment by mistake.
A multi-ethnic jury sentenced Guyger to 10 years in prison. But before she was escorted from the courtroom by deputies, Botham Jean’s younger brother, Brandt Jean, was given permission to hug her by Tammy Kemp, the judge who presided over the case.
Guyger collapsed into Brandt Jean’s arms, sobbing as she embraced him for about a minute.
“I don’t want to say twice or for the hundredth time how much you’ve taken from us,” Brandt Jean said while addressing Guyger in his victim impact statement at her sentencing.
“I think you know that. I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things that you may have done in the past. If you truly are sorry, I can speak for myself, I forgive you. I know if you go to God and ask Him, he will forgive you.
“Just speaking for myself, not even on behalf of my family, I love you just like anyone else. I’m not going to say that I hope you rot and die like my brother. I personally want the best for you. I wasn’t going to say this in front of my family, in front of anyone. I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you. I know that’s what Botham would want for you — is for you to give your life to Christ. I love you as a person and don’t wish anything bad for you.”
Kemp shared a Bible verse and a hug with Guyger, and gave the convicted murderer a Bible of her own before she was led out of the courtroom.
The NFL Super Bowl spot has re-ignited all the controversy that surrounded the trial and years of a sordid history of killings and official and unofficial misconduct that proceeded the trial.
Many tweets decried the Jean spot as a vacant publicity stunt — a way to cleanse a stain that some people saw embodied in the way the NFL reacted to Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who dropped to one knee during the performances of the national anthem to protest police shootings.
Still others encouraged a more conciliatory approach, perhaps realizing that for all the injustices that have transpired in the United States during its journey toward equity for all, to go further would require a next step forward.
Toward the end of the video Botham Jean’s father asked why there must be hatred for each other.
“My own son demonstrated forgiveness,” he said. “Brandt forgave the woman who had just killed his brother.”
And then Jean’s mother spoke again during the video, saying that there are things that must be done and must be done quickly.
“We must change this all around,” she says.
The NFL is emphasizing criminal justice reform during its centennial with an effort called Inspire Change. The initiative features grants given to grassroots criminal justice reform and education organizations.
But judging from some of the comments populating the twitterverse, it is difficult to imagine that the mistrust many have expressed about the sincerity of the league’s efforts at community empowerment will magically evaporate because of a few public service announcements, or a smattering of donations to social service organizations.