Pull Flags Not Guns football games deter folks away from gun violence in Philadelphia

Pull Flags Not Guns hosted its seventh annual flag football games in Philadelphia’s Olney neighborhood to keep people away from gun violence. 

"You always hearing somebody always getting shot. Instead of saying let's just do a flag football tournament. Let’s pull flags, not guns, so we're still pulling something but something with positivity," said Rahim English, CEO of Pull Flags Not Guns.

Spreading that positivity one play at a time, the Pull Flags Not Guns tournament is in its 7th year. It started with less than 20 people and grew into adults and kids from all over the city coming out to tackle gun violence. 

"I like the pressure. I like the competitiveness that goes on here and this is the good foundation everything is better to have people here then be on the streets doing who knows what," said Mekhi Mathis, player.

16-year-old Mekhi has played in the tournament since he was 10 years old and has already seen friends he grew up with not make it to the end zone. 

"Some of my friends you did like you said they wanted another way and I went this way, and I felt like this is gonna set me up better in life to do more positive things than the negative things that we're doing," said Mathis.

"Your life is very valuable. The world is yours and they need to know that. Not enough kids are hearing that they can do and be whatever they want to be beyond," said Marcus Mathis, Co-Founder, VP, Creative Director of Pull Flags Not Guns.

Ernesto Dejeus knows first hand how just like a coin toss, life is a toss up between two sides, to do the right thing or not. 

"It means a lot to me because I've been in that predicament. So now, I'm actually doing something positive to show people. Regardless of what you did in the past," said Ernesto Dejeus, board member.

However, football is just the vehicle to get that message across. After the game and trophies the adults have serious talks with the kids.

"I give them a backstory about my life, you know, almost getting shot multiple times; friends that I know getting killed at a young age and age is younger than what there are," said the CEO.

"Coming out here and trying to get the youth to put the guns down so that my job as a firefighter, EMT, won’t continue to pull teenagers as young as 15, 14 years olds out of police cars shot up," said George Nixon, Delaware County firefighter and EMT.

And just like in football where you may drop the ball sometimes, the adults want kids to know it’s all about recovering from the fumble and making the next play count.

"How about this, how about we put down the guns and pick ourselves up about that. Let's try to put the gun down and this I think would be great," said English.