RISE awards Super Bowl ticket to Minnesota police officer

February 1, 2018

By Ian Cutler

Officer Nick Kellum of the St. Paul Police Department in Minnesota gives two thumbs up in appreciation of the ticket to the Super Bowl he was awarded through RISE. Kellum on Wednesday, Jan. 31, was at the American Heroes National Launch & Youth Football Celebration at the West St. Paul Regional Athletic Center.

MINNEAPOLIS – Officer Nick Kellum of the St. Paul Police Department woke up from a nap earlier this week to a voicemail he thought he’d never receive.

When he returned the call, he learned he had been awarded a ticket to Super Bowl LII after being nominated for his extraordinary commitment to serving his community.

“I didn’t even know that someone took the time to nominate me and never expected to win,” Kellum said. “I’m still smiling.”

The Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) awarded Kellum a game ticket and invited him to the third annual RISE Super Bowl Town Hall, “The Next Play: Best Practices for Using Sports to Improve Race Relations,” a forum Friday, Feb. 2, during which NFL players and executives will discuss lessons learned from the activist athlete this season with a focus on what’s coming next.

Kellum, who has spent the past 19 years in the SPPD, will attend both events with Charles Wylie, a senior football player at Brooklyn Center High School; Daryl Savage, one of Wylie’s coaches at the school; and Pro Football Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams. Wylie won tickets to the Super Bowl through a RISE essay contest and got to select a coach to attend the game with him. The Miami Dolphins provided RISE with the four tickets.

The Brooklyn Center football team completed the RISE Leadership Program this past football season. The program teaches participants how they can use their role as athletes, coaches and administrators to champion equality, stand up to discrimination and harassment, and improve race relations.

The Super Bowl events will allow Wylie, Savage and Kellum to use a shared passion for sports to bond and create better understanding between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

“Obviously I’m a police officer and we have kids that look like me going through the same struggles that I had growing up in an urban environment. And with sports I have something to relate to them with,” Kellum said. “Sometimes you have kids who go through things and don’t like the police and sometimes sports is the way to bridge that gap. … We’re more related than we are apart, and sports can be that connection.”

Kellum was nominated to receive the ticket by Tyrone Terrill, president of the African American Leadership Council. Terrill praised Kellum’s nearly two decades of service uniting and strengthening Twin Cities communities.

In his nomination letter, Terril noted that Kellum was the founder and first president of the Minnesota Black Police Officers Association, which has “served hundreds of youth and families with back to school support, and holiday events.” Terrill also cited Kellum’s commitment to using sports as a vehicle for good. Kellum gathers officers to participate in flag football tournaments for inner city youth sponsored by the Minnesota Vikings, actively supports St. Paul High School’s football and basketball teams, and organizes Minnesota Special Olympic Tennis – a weekend-long event Kellum has helped put together the last two years, bringing law enforcement officials together with more than 500 disabled youth to play tennis.

“I feel good when I can see the lives that I’ve touched,” Kellum said. “You realize, man, somebody didn’t do this for me, and you can actually see the good in what you do, and it becomes a habit and you want to do more of it.”

Kellum also is looking forward to the town hall event and praised athletes for serving as role models and using their platforms to speak out about important issues.

“I think you need that,” he said. “And with town hall meetings, we can all come together and construct a dialogue and say, ‘What are the issues in your communities?’ Especially athletes, you have a lot of athletes of color that are in the NFL and the NBA that came from the same places that a lot of the youth that we work with come from, and they can say, ‘Look, we understand we’re in the NFL, we’re on TV, but we understand the inequalities that exist in life and we understand there needs to be some change … so I’m happy to be there and I’m proud that I can let them know that I’m not only a police officer, but I’m an African-American police officer who at one time had distrust with those that protect and serve us, but we’re trying to change that and do that together.”

Ian Cutler is director of media relations for RISE.