In partnership with Special Olympics Southern California and the Los Angeles Police Department, the Rams hosted the inaugural Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) Unified Flag Football Tournament on Saturday, December 15. The tournament featured 16 teams comprised of 80 Special Olympics athletes and 80 law enforcement officers. The two finalists of the single-elimination style tournament played in the Championship game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before the Rams played the Eagles on Sunday Night Football.
“If we win, that’ll be so great,” said Special Olympics athlete Nate Bush, “But if we lose, that’s ok because we’re here together, all doing our best to play some football.”
All 160 of the participating athletes and law enforcement officers were recognized on the 5-yard line during the SNF matchup, and the winning team had the opportunity to light the Coliseum torch prior to kickoff. Each of the teams were represented by officers and sheriffs from across Los Angeles, El Monte, Orange County, Redlands and Ventura. Through sponsorships and peer-to-peer funding, the LETR Unified Flag Football Tournament raised a total of $18,500 in support of Special Olympics.
“This experience was really humbling, and it makes you realize how you can take some of the little things for granted,” said Eddie Herrera, an officer with the Redlands Police Department. “You can tell how excited they are and how much commitment they have. They’re all here because they love football. I think this is a perfect type of event because it’s an opportunity for them to bond with one another.”
As a former NFL player, Rams Community Affairs and Engagement Manager Johnathan Franklin understands how the power of sport can unite people from all walks of life. While the tournament provided athletes and officers with a competitive environment, Franklin couldn’t help but notice the camaraderie displayed amongst all the teams.
“These athletes are highly talented and competitive, but I really appreciate the unity displayed by each team. You can tell these athletes are here because they love the game of football and they care about each other,” said Franklin. “One of the Rams’ main goals is to focus resources on efforts to engage and positively impact the Los Angeles community. Alongside our community heroes with LAPD and other surrounding areas, we’re able to provide a platform for Special Olympic athletes to showcase their abilities, skills and courage along with an opportunity to connect and form relationships with people in their community who support them.”
Additional volunteers on-hand to support the SOSC athletes and law enforcement officers were Rams cheerleaders and participants of the RISE with the Rams program, which is a season-long leadership and community building program that featured student-athletes on Morningside High School (Inglewood) and Oaks Christian High School’s (Westlake Village) varsity football teams. The collaboration was designed to build relationships between two LA area schools with a cross-section of socioeconomic backgrounds, and to build leadership, understanding, and cultural competency to athletes and coaches.
Rams Tight End Tyler Higbee and Punter Johnny Hekker also chose to support Special Olympics as their causes for the NFL’s annual My Cause My Cleats campaign, wearing the cleats during the SNF showdown against the Eagles. Images of Higbee and Hekker’s cleats can be viewed here.
Special Olympics Southern California transforms lives through the joy of sport and is currently the world’s largest sports organization for people with intellectual disabilities, with 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries and millions more volunteers and supporters.