Chris Long gives 100% on and off the field

Chris Long 2012
Chris Long poses for a picture with fans at the 2012 Taste of the NFL St. Louis

Chris Long loves to sack the quarterback. He also wants to sack homelessness, poverty, hunger, injustice and poor educational opportunities. I met him when he played defensive end for the then St. Louis Rams. He was the team’s top draft pick and went second overall in 2007.

The Rams had some tough years on the field in St. Louis, but Long never let it show toward fans nor in the community. He served as chairman for the annual Taste of the NFL in St. Louis which raised money for the Sports Commission’s Sportsmanship Foundation and the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

He and former Rams teammate William Hayes spent time living on the streets of St. Louis in order to bring awareness to the plight of the homeless and encourage others to step up and help. Long stood in solidarity with teammate Malcolm Jenkins during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial inequality in America.

This year, the former Ram, Patriot and current Eagle put his money where his mouth is. Long and his wife were moved to start a scholarship fund after the events in Charlottesville last summer. Long donated his first six games checks of the 2017 season to the fund, but felt he needed to go further and create more educational opportunities for kids.

On Wednesday, Long announced he is donating his entire 2017 salary to educational organizations in St. Louis, Boston and Philadelphia – one million dollars in all. Chris Long is a gifted football player who knows his gifts can make the world a better place. He plays to help his team and his community win.

For Jaz Granderson…and all the brothers and sisters who ain’t here

jaz granderson

When I turned on the news Monday morning, reports were a man in South St. Louis had been shot and killed overnight. His name hadn’t been released and police had no suspects in custody.

A woman in her 30s was also shot and killed in North St. Louis. Again, her name had not been released and police had no suspects in custody.

By Monday afternoon, the man was no longer nameless. He was Jaz Granderson, 27, of St. Louis. Granderson was an assistant football coach at DeSmet High School, a prestigious St. Louis County high school and football powerhouse. Granderson was a standout football player himself at Kirkwood (Mo.) High School and the University of Northern Iowa.

Granderson has been described as a good man who took advantage of his opportunities, made something of himself, and returned home to give back to kids.

His death is a tragedy in the literal sense because something so awful happened to such a good person. Granderson’s passing is also a tragedy for his family, teachers and coaches who poured so much into him and placed their hopes in his future.

Granderson being taken opens a deep wound among the kids he coached and mentored at DeSmet. How will they recover? How will they heal? How will they carry this scar? It’s also a tragedy for the community in that Granderson could have coached and mentored thousands of kids to reach his heights and beyond over a long career.

I’m also reminded of the woman killed hours before Granderson in North St. Louis. I still don’t know her name or what she did for a living. I don’t where she went to school or what community ties she had. I do know she’s gone, just like Granderson.

Most of the victims of violence we hear about remain nameless and faceless, but like Granderson, they had so much potential. They could have made our communities better places. We can’t continue like this. The future is literally dying. With all your might, please, for all our sakes, stop the violence!

 

Cam Newton sparks controversy after comments to female reporter

Jourdan Rodrigue is a Panthers beat reporter for the Charlotte Observer. It’s literally her job to cover quarterback Cam Newton and his teammates every single day. Rodrigue asked Newton about the improved route-running of wide receiver Devin Funchess. Here is Newton’s response:

Cam Newton is 28-years-old. Women have covered the sport every day of his football life in various capacities. This behavior is tired. Athletes and men in general need to stop acting as if our Y chromosome gives us an understanding of sports that women will never grasp. Sports just aren’t that hard to figure out for any functioning human being.

Of Ferguson and Football #NationalPoetryDay

“Of Ferguson and Football”

The first knee was taken on Canfield

As family and friends collapsed to the ground with grief.

Michael’s spirit had gone, but his young body lay there.

One hour…two hours…three hours…four…

The Gateway City’s oppressive heat gave way to a greater oppression

A deeper pain, a heavier burden, a historic truth.

Humanity, in America, depends on who you are, who your parents are

How much money you have, the color of your skin.

 

Michael was not a man as I was not at 18.

He should be here to answer for any mistakes and atone for them

As I did.

Eric Garner came before Michael, but his story grew after.

When a man says he can’t breathe, stop choking him.

His humanity, your humanity demands it!

Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Timothy Russell,

Malissa Williams, Timothy Russell, Sandra Bland, and Walter Scott.

 

I see a part of me in each of them and so many more.

I see my family and friends in them.

They are so much like us; they are us.

My heart goes to extremes

From rage to resolve and back to rage

And back to resolve.

Between fear and defiance, I go

But by the grace of God, go I.

 

I have friends who are police officers.

I love them like brothers.

My fear for them is they will encounter someone

Who is not going to jail today.

I fear they will have to make a choice

Because some knucklehead has to prove himself today.

They shouldn’t have to choose

No one should.

 

Colin took a knee

And the crowd went wild.

He’s “disrespecting” the military you say?

Where were you when the anthem played?

At the concession stand? In the restroom?

Were you having a conversation with your hat on and back turned?

Since you’re so patriotic

Why does your favorite team put the words on the big screen for you?

 

Pardon my condescension

But this isn’t about the troops, the military, the flag or even football.

There is a certain suspension of disbelief and morality that comes with some entertainment.

Football players hurt themselves, often seriously, for our enjoyment.

Fans brush off ACL tears, broken legs and cart-offs like they’re nothing.

Athletes have been accused, tried and convicted of serious crimes

But as long as they score TDs for our team

It’s not only accepted, we jeer those who dare investigate them.

 

Some also have a suspension of disbelief where activism is concerned.

Ali became the world’s most beloved athlete

When he could no longer tell America about herself.

Protesters are told to follow the example of Dr. King.

Funny, many of them have a long way to go

Before matching King’s 29 jailhouse stays.

His letter from a Birmingham jail wasn’t hyperbole.

King often lost his freedom in the fight for the same.

 

But what about Chicago? St. Louis? Detroit?

Why don’t they protest where there’s more violence?

Answer a question with a question

Why don’t you?

Is your whataboutism the result of introspection or deflection?

Guessing the latter.

Sin is hard to deal with

Particularly America’s original, foundational sin.

 

Colin’s silent knee made a louder sound

Than the screams and cries on Canfield.

What shall we do now?

Will we run to our respective corners and curse the other side?

What is the other side of humanity by the way?

If it is unity we seek to achieve

If a more perfect union is our nation’s goal

We must first believe there is a person underneath.

 

President Trump’s comments about NFL player protests spark more protests

Patriots Protest

Last week, I wrote an article about a youth football team in Cahokia, Illinois, and their decision, with the permission of their coach and parents, to take a knee during the national anthem before one of their games. There was significant response on our Facebook page. Some commenters supported the kids’ actions and some did not.

One common refrain from those opposed to the kids taking a knee questioned whether or not the kids knew why they were protesting. I would pose the same question to every adult reading this space.

Do you know why former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began his protest of taking a knee during the national anthem? No matter what you may think his protest was about, please watch the first three minutes of the video below as he explains why to reporters.

On Friday night during a campaign rally in Alabama, President Donald Trump used profane language to describe the NFL players taking part in protests similar to Kaepernick’s. I will not post video of Trump’s comments nor provide a link to them here. Profanity is not allowed on this site. Thank you for understanding.

On Saturday morning, President Trump rescinded a White House invitation via Twitter to the current NBA champion Golden State Warriors because star guard Stephen Curry was having some reservations about going to Washington, D.C. with his team.

This caused backlash on social media from players on multiple teams, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, and Draymond Green just to name a few.

Trump’s comments from Friday sparked a form of protest by every team in the NFL on Sunday. Some players kneeled, others stood with locked arms and a few teams did not take the field at all during the anthem.

Our kids are NBA and NFL fans. What did you tell your kids as you watched the games with them? Our kids are on social media. They undoubtedly saw the back-and-forth between the best players in the NBA and the leader of the free world. What did you say to them about that?

If you haven’t talked to your kids about Trump’s comments, the player protests, or anything else, it’s time to have an honest and thorough conversation. Talk to your kids about police heroism. Talk to them about police brutality. Tell them how many people in black and brown communities feel. Tell them how people in predominantly white communities feel.

If you don’t know how a person feels, ask them. Ask your kids what they think. Ask them if they have discussed the topic with their friends, teachers and coaches. Whether you think police officers can do no wrong or you think they’re always wrong, we can all agree things can’t stay like this.

Before we can come together or exhibit any degree of unity, we must understand and care for one another. We can’t be dismissive of humanity based on circumstances. Please share your thoughts on what we should tell our kids and each other in the comments section here and on our Facebook page.

Let’s do all we can to make our country a better place for everyone.

P.S. Please be respectful of everyone’s opinion. Any racism, personal insults, or profanity will result in your comment being deleted and your profile being blocked.

Cahokia youth football team takes a knee during national anthem

A Cahokia, Illinois youth football team engaged in a form of protest last weekend. Check out their story in the video below:

This is not about should they or shouldn’t they kneel. There are 1,000 other outlets taking one side or the other where the actual gesture is concerned. This article is about the kids. It’s a terribly overused cliché, but what’s happening in the St. Louis area right now and our country overall represents a teachable moment.

Kids aren’t stupid. They see what’s going on and they see adult reactions. It’s easy to accuse someone of indoctrinating a kid toward their political bent, but who can answer the hard questions kids ask? There is nothing more heartbreaking or worrying to a caring adult than when a kid asks you if he is going to die.

Your answer had better not be political. The kids on this Cahokia team are predominantly black and some may be afraid for their lives. They watch the news with their parents as most of us did growing up. The St. Louis region has a serious violent crime problem. What do you say to the kid who is afraid of both criminals and crime fighters?

Before you dismiss this as exaggeration, think about the kid in your house who is/was afraid of monsters in their room. How many times did you pretend to be a superhero and destroy all the monsters? How many times did you sleep in the chair or on the floor in your kid’s room to protect them from the monsters? How many times did you just give up and let the kid hop in the bed between you and your spouse so you could get some sleep?

And you did all of that for the kid you love most. You did all of that to ease the child’s mind about something that can never hurt him. What was the Cahokia coach supposed to do? This situation is real and his kids came to him. What would you have done?

It’s also worth noting, in youth football, everyone takes a knee when something is wrong. No matter your position on the issues of police shootings vs. protesting vs. community violence, there is no denying that something is really wrong in our country.

 

Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys remind us how powerful hugs are

Sloane Stephens won her first U.S. Open tennis title over the weekend. She did so by defeating her best friend, Madison Keys. Here is what happened after the match ended:

Of course, they hugged. That’s what best friends do, right? Well, hold on there Mr. or Ms. Cynical von HardofHeart. Stephens and Keys hugged for a full 19 seconds. Who was the last person you hugged for 19 seconds?

I don’t mean those weak side hugs or an arm around the shoulder. I mean when was the last time you gave anyone a full-on-chest-to-chest-arms-wrapped-around-their-back-hug? We really don’t hug our kids and spouses all that long when you think about it. We hug them a lot, but we don’t give them long hugs. It gets weird after five seconds or so, even if the other person shares your last name.

People get concerned about how others will view them and not consider the person they’re hugging cares more than any onlooker. Hugs physically and emotionally close the space between us. With their embrace, Stephens and Keys let each other know that nothing comes between them – not this game, not this trophy, not this check, not these people – nothing!

The world could really use a few more hugs these days.