DENVER — Broncos All-Pro safety Justin Simmons is calling on Gov. Jared Polis to release more medically-vulnerable inmates from Colorado prisons amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson and cornerback De'Vante Bausby joined Simmons in an ad with the American Civil Liberties Union to push Polis "to intervene in order to save lives and undo decades of massive and ineffective carceral growth in our state," according to an ACLU Colorado news release.
“Today a Black person has a one-in-three chance of ending up in prison,” Simmons said in the ad. “For us, that would be like losing 19 members of our football team. That would be a major loss for us just as it is for our communities.”
State officials have made some efforts to reduce prison and jail populations during the pandemic, though some of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the state have been in those facilities.
The Broncos players are pushing for Polis "to do more — to boldly exercise his clemency powers to undo the harms of mass incarceration and champion racial justice in Colorado" by releasing inmates "who pose no public safety risk," the news release said.
The push from Simmons, Johnson and Bausby is the latest effort from Broncos players toward social justice and reform.
Broncos players marched last summer in the wake of George Floyd's death, and in August the team decided to cancel practice following the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin.
"We have an amazing platform as players as the most prestigious organizations to make a change," Simmons told Denver7 in August.
At the time, Simmons told Denver7 that the plan moving forward was to get Governor Polis and Mayor Hancock "to the table" to create impactful change.
"We were hitting some things that are going to affect immediate change, talking about police reform, education reform. Honestly, holding our organization accountable from top down," Simmons said in August.
"If guys are speaking out we want to make sure we are held accountable. But, we brought up Demaryius Thomas and Brandon Marshall taking a knee, and we felt like the organization didn't have their back when they were down there protesting. They just felt alone. They were losing sponsorships, and obviously the fans had a lot to say about it. And it just felt like they were alone. We talk about how our voices are important, but how important are they if they we are not backed by those who have are backs when we are wearing their name across our chests?"
Simmons was the Broncos' Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year nominee in 2019 and 2020. Last year the team cited Simmons' social justice work, along with his $10,000 donation to Denver Public Schools Foundation's Food Security Fund, which helped ensure children continued to receive free or reduced-cost meals during the pandemic.