With the situation in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Mo., still very much unsettled, the area’s NFL team provided a respite from the tension for some of Ferguson’s young athletes.
The Rams hosted the Green Bay Packers in a preseason game Saturday night, and the team invited the football teams from Ferguson’s three high schools — McCluer, McCluer North and McCluer South — to join them at the Edward Jones Dome.
Seventy-five free tickets to the game were made available for each team, according to Robert Klemko of TheMMQB.com and Sports Illustrated.
"In light of everything going on it just kind of hit me," Rams manager of fan development and alumni relations Kyle Eversgerd told Klemko. "I can’t imagine with all that stuff going on, how tough it must be to practice. We were able to get them away from it all."
USA Today’s For the Win blog cites a Ferguson-Florissant School District spokesperson as saying the tickets went directly to the teams’ head coaches, so it’s unclear how many students got to go. But apparently at least some did attend, according to Klemko:
Spoke with 4 Ferguson-area HS seniors who took up Rams offer to attend preseason game. All thought: 'Wow, I think I could play out there.'
“It was overwhelming to see the NFL live, for real,” Klemko quotes senior running back Henry Jones as saying. “You saw how fast they played, and how they played together. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I could actually see myself out there playing.”
Ferguson has been the site of ongoing protests since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by a police officer last weekend. Those protests, while largely peaceful during daytime hours, have turned violent at night, including instances of looting and vandalism.
"Our kids are focused on this season," McCluer coach Mario MacDonald told Klemko. "But I worry about them out here, to be honest."
The Packers won the game – the second of the preseason for both teams — 21-7.