The Congressional Football Game that takes place every odd-numbered year honored two special agents of the Capitol Hill Police Department that saved the life of a powerful leader in the U.S. House of Representatives.
On Oct. 11, the biennial football game took place at Gallaudet University’s Hotchkiss Field before 350 people in a misty rain. The teams were the “Mean Machine” that consisted of members of the House and former NFL stars such as Washington Redskins Ken Harvey, Santana Moss and Gary Clark in addition to former Philadelphia Eagles Herschel Walker and John Booty going against the Guards, who are Capitol Hill police officers.
Proceeds of the game went to three non-profit organizations: the United States Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Our Military Kids and A Advantage 4 Kids. The NFL also was also a sponsor and administered a pre-game football clinic for young people.
“The Congressional Football Game for Charity is a wonderful way to honor the service and sacrifice of the brave men and women of the U.S. Capitol Police and our armed forces,” NFL Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Jocelyn Moore, said. “The National Football League is pleased to once again be a part of this event in support of the courageous men and women in uniform who keep us safe here at home and abroad.”
In 1998, two Black Capitol Hill police officers Jacob “J.J.” Chestnut and Detective John Gibson lost their lives to protect members of Congress, congressional staff and visitors to the Capitol. U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster led the effort to create the game to honor their sacrifice and provide financial support for the families they left behind.
The Congressional Football Game started in 2005 and moved to its biennial format in 2007. The event has long been a bipartisan effort with both Democrats and Republicans playing on the same team.
While the NFL stars commanded a lot of attention, it was special agents David J. Bailey and Crystal Griner that received the most attention from those who attended the event. On June 14, James Hodgkinson fired multiple shot during a Republican Congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Va. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others were injured.
Scalise and his teammates were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game that was set for the next day. In defending Scalise, Bailey and Griner were injured and saved the congressional leader’s life.
Since that time, Bailey threw out the first pitch at the June 15 congressional baseball game and has received honors from a fraternal organization and a group of Black college alumni in the Washington, D.C. area.
Both Bailey and Griner were honored with the Medal of Valor from President Trump at the White House on July 27.
Bailey politely declined an interview with the AFRO, but his teammate and colleague, Larry Bell, had plenty to say.
“David and Crystal were just doing their jobs,” Bell said. “We are highly trained to do what we do. It is really important that we protect the members of Congress and we don’t seek the spotlight.”
The Guards won the game, 7-0 but it was the bipartisanship of the “Mean Machine” that got the most attention.
“It is good seeing Democrats and Republicans working together,” Harvey told the AFRO. “It was good to see lawmakers take time out of their busy schedules to practice early in the morning for this event. It shows that people can work together.”
The only member of the Congressional Black Caucus who participated in the game was Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas). Veasey told the AFRO he wanted to be a part of this game.
“For me it was a great challenge to get to practice every morning,” he said. “However, this game benefits charity and that is what is important. I like to see Democrats and Republicans having a good time together.”
Markita Bryant had her umbrella and her six-year-old son with her at the game. “I support this game because it supports charity work and young people,” she told the AFRO. “It is important for the community to come together for this great cause.”