It began for all the right reasons, an event that most folks were anxious to get behind. But with allegations of race and politics tinged by angry rhetoric, a flag-football event in honor of Sgt. Ron Helus, Borderline’s fallen hero, turned into a battle between red and blue and a fight reminiscent of what divides our nation today.
It should never have come to this.
In 1983, a Miami police officer named Robert L. Zore was killed in the line of duty. A foundation in his name, also known as Fallen Officers, was established by the slain officer’s daughter, Rosemary Zore, to provide relief for other law enforcement families who might have suffered a similar fate.
Fallen Officers, started last year, holds events such as concerts and flag-football games to draw attention to the men and women who risk their lives in the name of law and order. The first-ever Blue Bowl was held in February. This summer, a Fallen Officers Blue Bowl game was scheduled for Oct. 6 at Newbury Park High School in the name of Sgt. Helus. Members on both sides of the political aisle, including Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, a Democrat, pledged to be there.
When word got out that several prominent Republicans were invited to take the stage at the Helus Bowl—including ardent Trump supporters Scott Baio, Hollywood actor, and Joy Villa, recording artist, along with Ronda Kennedy, the GOP candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Irwin in 2018—the mood soured and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office pulled out.
Although Fallen Officers Vice President Mike Randall called the Blue Bowl a “nonpolitical event” to honor the Helus memory, the lineup he proposed bringing to the Conejo Valley event clearly smacked of politics and went against what the sheriff’s department was told when they initially signed on to support the game.
Thousand Oaks Police Chief Tim Hagel, acting on orders from Sheriff Bill Ayub, issued a complaint to Randall that the event had taken on unwanted political overtones. Hagel said some things he probably shouldn’t have. But the last thing the sheriff wanted is to be inserted into the middle of a political food fight, and we don’t blame him.
Randall accused Irwin and Hagel of injecting “race and politics” into the event because Kennedy is African American and a former opponent of Irwin. The latter? Maybe. But the former? We don’t buy it.
We have no problem when members of warring political factions wish to be featured at partisan events. But a football game to honor fallen police officers—especially one as revered as Helus—should not be the stage for political grandstanding. The out-of-town promoters handled the whole affair badly. They should have known what the reaction would be in a district that is clearly Democratic-leaning, so why even go there? Maybe next year they can drain the swamp, and host an event in which politics is not invited.