The Jon Gruden Case and Why the NFL Still Isn’t Serious About Social Justice

On October 11th, the National Football League (NFL) community was shocked when news surfaced that Las Vegas Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden announced his resignation just five weeks into the season. Gruden was one of the most high-profile figures in the NFL over the last 20 years, serving both as a Super Bowl-winning Head Coach and Monday Night Football Commentator. His resignation came after a slew of emails sent by him were made public that included a racial trope, antigay language, and a generally wide range of hurtful and insensitive rhetoric. The news was groundbreaking and hard to fathom for many who had beloved Gruden over the years, but there’s more to the story. The focus has rightfully been exclusively on Gruden and his fall-from-grace. Still, the lens of judgment has failed to focus on the multi-billion-dollar organization that has facilitated such behavior for far too long: the NFL. In the following, we’ll break down the necessary details of the Gruden case and why his resignation was essential. But we’ll also take a look into the NFL and what this case means for an organization that has a lousy track record of failing to support social justice issues, its players, and what’s morally right.

Details of the Case

As tends to be the norm in situations like this, there are many moving parts and details that are perhaps too complex to cover for this piece. With that being said, we must understand the chain of events here to better comprehend the whole picture.

From a public perspective, the Gruden ordeal began on October 8th, just a few days before his resignation. That Friday, The Wall Street Journal published a story revealing that the NFL was investigating Gruden for using a racial trope in a 2011 email to describe the NFLPA Chief DeMaurice Smith. Additionally, WSJ also reported that the NFL had been analyzing over 650,000 emails as part of their investigation that had begun back in June of 2021. The NFL’s investigation was spawned from a separate investigation on the Washington Football Team for workplace misconduct – a perhaps even more disturbing case if you’re unfamiliar.

In part of the NFL’s investigation, they came across the initial email in question, sent to then Washington Team President Bruce Allen. At this point, the NFL stated that the investigation had been launched under NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s direction. Goodell had then received a summary of the inquiry earlier in the week the story was published. The NFL also stated that it was sharing emails related to Gruden to the Las Vegas Raiders, who then employed him as their Head Coach.

The WSJ story broke headlines and sent a shockwave throughout the league. Many instantly began calling for Gruden’s resignation and action from the NFL. However, the NFL simply stated at the time that it was reviewing Gruden’s status for potential discipline. Gruden went on to coach his team’s game that Sunday, and it seemed as if a suspension, at best, was looming in the near future for Gruden. But then Monday came around.

On October 11th, The New York Times reported that Gruden was cited using anti-transgender, antigay, and much more offensive language in additional email correspondence with Bruce Allen for several years. Once again, the story shook up the league, and it seemed inevitable that Gruden would not escape this one. By the end of the day, Gruden met with the owner of the Las Vegas Raiders and would shortly thereafter announce his resignation as Head Coach.

A Word on Gruden

Before we look at this issue in a broader scope, we must be clear on Jon Gruden and his fate. Without question, his fall-from-grace was well-deserved, and he certainly doesn’t belong on an NFL sideline, now or ever again, for that matter. Gruden was a beloved coach and personality for many years, but no resume or persona outweigh actions. If we’re serious about shifting societal norms and scales of what’s accepted and not, then individuals who engage in such behavior must be dealt with in such a fashion. But with that being said, there’s a bigger issue at play here that hasn’t gotten enough press, and that’s the continued incompetency and lack of authenticity from the NFL to take social justice issues and questions of morality seriously in favor of the bottom line.

The NFL’s Culpability

Let’s start with the case in question. For starters, it’s a bit questionable that an investigation of emails, especially once the initial one was found, took nearly five months. According to the NFL, it took from June to the second week of October for a summary of the investigation’s findings to be presented to the Commissioner, the same one who supposedly launched the investigation in the first place. Even if this is true, it shows a severe lack of legitimate and effective protocols in place at the NFL to take matters like this as seriously as possible. Five months is far too long for a multi-billion-dollar organization that claims these issues are among their top priorities.

Then there’s the inaction after the initial story. Gruden faced no discipline, not even an indefinite leave of absence when the initial racist email was made public. For a league that has recently launched a massive social justice campaign that allows players to wear decals such as “End Racism,” “Stop Hate,” “It Takes All of Us,” and more, it’s highly problematic that they let Gruden go on to coach a game just a few days later. Plus, they hadn’t even met with and briefed the team that employed Gruden as their Head Coach: the Las Vegas Raiders.

The way this whole case played out and the lack of action from the NFL is concerning, to say the least. It begs the question, what happens if the second story never came out? Better yet, what about the first? It makes one seriously wonder if this issue would’ve ever seen the light of day. When it comes to racism or any form of hate for that matter, we all know by now that it takes more than just being opposed to the actions; you have to be anti-racist, anti-hate, and do more than just launch a multi-million-dollar PR campaign. I said before, and I’ll say it again, nothing outweighs actions here. And once again, the actions, or lack thereof, show that the NFL is still miles behind in taking social justice issues seriously.

Closing Remarks

It may seem as if the criticism of the NFL is perhaps too harsh for just this one incident, but the point is, it’s not just one incident. The way the NFL handled the Colin Kaepernick situation and players kneeling during the national anthem is a perfect example of a league that has failed to evolve and support its players above all. This is the same league that has banned multiple players for over a year for Marijuana usage, yet they hesitated with Jon Gruden. This is also the same league that has repeatedly shown that they don’t take domestic violence or sexual misconduct actions seriously either. The NFL has a bad track record when it comes to how they handle social justice issues, and if this case proves anything, it’s that they haven’t seemed to learn much of a lesson. A PR campaign might inspire some change, and we can all support that, but when your actions don’t reflect your words, then words mean nothing.

Four Tips to Help Communities and Churches Battle Human Trafficking

WACO, Texas – Super Bowl festivities in Houston will be in full swing this week as the nation gears up for the NFL’s premier event on Sunday. Thousands of people will pour into the city. Unfortunately, those crowds will include those involved in human trafficking.

“We can expect to see an influx of out-of-town victims and trafficking solicitations during Super Bowl weekend. Much of that will take place online,” said human trafficking expert Elizabeth Goatley, Ph.D., assistant professor in Baylor University’s Diana R. Garland School of Social Work.

Goatley said large-scale national events like the Super Bowl draw attention to human trafficking, and it’s an appropriate time to make people aware of the epidemic, which victimizes hundreds of thousands of people within the United States each year. Globally, an estimated 20.9 million people are victims of human trafficking, resulting in a $150 billion industry, according to the International Labour Organization.

“Communities can make a difference in combating human trafficking,” Goatley said, “but it takes knowing your neighbor and your neighborhood and doing for the ‘least of these.’”

She offered the following tips to help communities better understand and combat human trafficking.

1. People must understand that human trafficking includes both sex and labor trafficking.

Human trafficking is the bartering or transactional engagement of a person for sex or labor, through the use of force, fraud or coercion, Goatley explained. Most communities and congregations focus on the “commercialized sex” part of human trafficking and often neglect those who are trapped in labor trafficking.

2. Human trafficking is cultural and contextualized to specific environments.

“When people say, ‘Tell me what human trafficking looks like,’ my response is always to reflect on how those in poverty are surviving in that community,” Goatley said.

In urban areas, she explained, it may look like the commercial sex industry (strip clubs, online ads, local prostitution tracks or brothels) or like day laborers who are financially exploited. It may look like childcare workers who never get days off, no breaks and little pay for labor; or it may look like a teenage runaway who needs food and barters sex for a meal or place to stay and is not allowed to leave.

In rural communities, she said, human trafficking may look like agricultural workers who are refused breaks and payment, or those working in toxic conditions and sweatshops. It may look like a family member bartering sex with a child to pay a bill.

“To best address human trafficking, people must know what’s going on in their communities,” she said.

3. Human trafficking is no respecter of race, gender, class or religion.

“There is no ‘type’ of person that can be lured into human trafficking,” Goatley said.

In a recent column Goatley penned for Ethics Daily, she provided the following examples of those who’ve fallen victim to human trafficking.

“Through my work in trafficking, I’ve heard stories from the 15-year-old competitive swimmer from the elite swimming club who fell for a guy she met on the Internet. When he asked for a meeting at the local mall to “hang out,” she didn’t hesitate. She told her mother that she was meeting friends at the mall, left home and didn’t return,” Goatley wrote.

“I’ve listened to a mother describe the struggle of providing for her family in her native country and the decision she made to sacrifice everything for a chance at a better life in America. She paid a coyote (smuggler) to help her cross into the United States, but upon crossing the coyote refused to let her go without a $10,000 ransom. She was forced to have sex with strangers until her debt was paid,” she wrote.

“I will never forget the story of the migrant worker who ‘followed the crops’ to provide for his family. He worked long hard hours in the fields picking a plethora of fruits and vegetables, pulling tobacco and tending to stables where he wasn’t allowed breaks and paid a dollar and a half a day,” Goatley wrote.

Fortunately, she wrote, all of those stories are of survivors who were assisted by local churches and other human trafficking organizations.

4. Get involved.

“Get to know the needs within your community,” Goatley said.

Is there a local school that needs adopting? Goatley said that research shows that third- and fourth-grade literacy rates have great predicting values on the path of a child’s life.

Is your church located in an immigrant community? Consider offering English as a Second Language courses (ESL), Goatley said. Research shows that immigrants that have better understanding of the English language are less likely to be exploited in the hiring process.

Is your church located within a community that experiences homelessness? Consider adopting a homeless shelter, Goatley said. Research states that runaways, throwaways (children whose families have put them out) and newly homeless persons are at a higher risk for human trafficking within the first 48 hours on the street.

“Additionally, people should pray and support anti-human trafficking organizations and advocate for anti-human trafficking legislation,” Goatley said.

The national hotline number to report any case or suspicion of a case is 1-888-373-7888.

The Adrian Peterson Case: Do Culture and Religion Matter?

While the media seems largely focused on the fact that the Minnesota Vikings finally decided to bench its star running back Adrian Peterson, a more important—and politically incorrect—question needs to be asked: To what extent, if any, did Adrian Peterson’s religious beliefs and cultural background as an African American contribute to him beating and injuring his son?

Adrian Peterson
Adrian Peterson

Many details about the case have been well publicized and have not been denied by Peterson: Last spring, he “disciplined” his four-year-old son at his Houston home by stuffing leaves in his mouth and hitting him repeatedly with the branch of a tree or “switch.” The boy was also reportedly beaten with a belt.

The “whoopings,” as Peterson called them, resulted in the boy sustaining lacerations, bruises, and welts on his legs, arms, buttocks, and genitals. The injuries were reported by a doctor after the boy’s mother took him for a previously scheduled appointment.

The 29-year-old Peterson is a deeply religious Christian, and his Twitter feed is peppered with religious proclamations and snapshots of Bible verses. The conservative Christian 700 Club has featured Peterson on its website. And Peterson seems to wholeheartedly believe that children should be disciplined using physical punishment.

Upon questioning, his son told his mother that Peterson “likes belts and switches and has a whooping room.” On September 15, Peterson tweeted, “Deep in my heart I have always believed I could have been one of those kids that was lost in the streets without the discipline instilled in me by my parents and others relatives.” Peterson’s adherence to such an ideology is particularly remarkable, given the fact that another of his sons was allegedly beaten to death when the boy was two years old.

After intense public pressure, the cancellation of a major NFL sponsor, apparent threats by other companies to cancel sponsorship, and the news that Peterson had been accused of abusing another son in 2013 while Peterson was not charged in that case, the Vikings dramatically changed course. Initially, after Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges, the Vikings had him sit out one game and then allowed him to rejoin the team. After the public outcry, officials barred him from all team activities. Some predict he will never again wear a Vikings jersey.

It probably wasn’t helpful to Peterson’s case that after the initial slap on the wrist, he sent out this tweet, indicating that God was on his side.

Many people Doubted YOU! Now look at you! You didnt Overcome Major Obstacles in your Life! You Identified who u were in Christ! . . . If you could only see how God views you! Just understand that you are a Mighty Vessel that God Chose to do Great things!

Now, statistics on the use of corporal punishment in conservative Christian households and those in the African American community are raising questions as to whether Peterson’s religious beliefs and cultural background fueled his ideology about the need to control his son’s behavior in this way and, ultimately, to injure him.

I’m not aware of any studies that show that children in one faith or racial group are more at risk for abuse than others, but there is reason to believe that children who are physically punished are more at risk for being physically abused than those who are not physically punished. Studies show that a vast majority of child abuse is delivered in the midst of adults using corporal punishment. Furthermore, children are more likely to be injured when parents use corporal punishment frequently or use implements to spank children.[1]

Corporal punishment among conservative Christians

Americans overall have been spanking less and less. The percentage of parents who favor corporal punishment has dropped from 84 percent in 1986 to about 70 percent in 2012. Many Christians choose not to spank their kids, pointing out that, according to the Bible, Jesus never advocated that children should be taught respect through hitting. Some Christian leaders have changed their views and now oppose spanking.

On the other hand, conservative Christians tend to believe that their religion requires them to spank. Many justify this choice by referencing numerous passages in the Book of Proverbs that condone using “the rod” to discipline children. For example, Proverbs 23:13—14 states: “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish them with the rod, they will not die. Punish them with the rod and save them from death.”

Some Christians also see the need to use corporal punishment to correct children’s inherent “sinfulness.” Days after Peterson’s indictment, a psychologist and minister with the conservative Christian organization Focus on the Family wrote an op-ed in Time magazine expressing this sentiment:

Unfortunately, each of us enters this world with desires that are selfish, unkind, and harmful to others and ourselves. Spanking, then, can be one effective discipline option among several in a parents’ tool chest as they seek to steer their children away from negative behaviors and guide them toward ultimately becoming responsible, healthy, happy adults.

Corporal punishment among African Americans

Similarly, African Americans also rely heavily on the use of corporal punishment. One study that looked at the childrearing of kindergartners shows that 89 percent of black parents spanked compared to 79 percent of white parents. According to a New York Times op-ed written by Georgetown University Sociology Professor and author Michael E. Dyson, the belief among African Americans that they must discipline their children using physical punishment is inherited from the days of slavery.

The lash of the plantation overseer fell heavily on children to whip them into fear of white authority. Terror in the field often gave way to parents beating black children in the shack, or at times in the presence of the slave owner in forced cooperation to break a rebellious child’s spirit. Black parents beat their children to keep them from misbehaving in the eyes of whites who had the power to send black youth to their deaths for the slightest offense.slave child

Dyson goes on to say, “If beating children began, paradoxically, as a violent preventive of even greater violence, it was enthusiastically embraced in black culture, especially when God was recruited. As an ordained Baptist minister with a doctorate in religion, I have heard all sorts of religious excuses for whippings.”

Defending Peterson

This association might explain why a number of black athletes have come to Peterson’s defense, often stating that the kind of beating Peterson gave his son is not all that uncommon among blacks. On a New York radio broadcast, Lions running back Reggie Bush said he and many of his friends were punished in the same way as Peterson chose to do with his son and that he would “harshly” punish his one-year-old daughter if need be. “I definitely will try to—will obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her,” Bush said. “But I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on what the situation is.” Initially Bush said he’d consider using a switch but then said he misspoke. “I said spanking,” he said. “Spanking is different than a branch or a stick.”

In an interview on NFL Today, NBA Hall-of-Famer Charles Barkley said corporal punishment is a way of life among the black, southern culture. “Whipping, we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under [Peterson’s] circumstances,” Barkley said. Peterson has shown remorse for injuring his child, yet he has continued to defend his decision to “discipline” (what others call “beat”) his child. On the day of his indictment, he told investigators, “I feel very confident with my actions because I know my intent.”

One African American blogger noted:

Corporal punishment is a cultural norm in the black community based on their Christian beliefs. They take to heart biblical passages like Proverbs 13:24. …People may find this abhorrent, but Peterson can use freedom of religion as a defense. His lawyer will put the Bible on the stand.

Meanwhile, some celebrated football stars, both black and white, such as Cris Carter and Boomer Esiason, have deplored Peterson’s actions and his justification that he was simply disciplining his child the same way that he was disciplined in his youth.

It’s safe to say the conversation about the morality of corporal punishment is not over. Sadly, it took a high-profile case of severe child abuse to begin a meaningful public discussion on this topic. But in addition to debating the pros and cons of physical punishment, we must also examine the religious and cultural roots of spanking among conservative Christians and in the African American community, as well as Americans of all faiths and races. If we don’t, we have little chance to protect children such as the son of Adrian Peterson.

NFL Unintentionally Raises Awareness on Domestic Violence and Child Abuse

Get-Your-Game-Face-On-Ray-Rice-GoodellMustGo

In the past weeks, many of you have heard of the reported incidents involving several NFL players all over the media and the internet sphere. First, it was the Ray Rice viral video of him assaulting his wife that made headlines, then Adrian Peterson later dominated the news cycle after being indicted on child abuse charges. Both of them are star sports personalities in the National Football League (NFL).

Naturally, most fans were shocked and disappointed over such events which have cast a shadow on the entire NFL organization and its members as the new season kicks off. However, prior to the recent high profiled incidents, social workers were already throwing flags to raise concerns on the increasing amounts of domestic violence incidents in the NFL, and recent events have spotlighted even further the darker side of the game. Like any other human beings, they aren’t perfect and struggle with different kind of personal and family issues.

Many grass roots organizations, fans, and other activists have come out publicly in opposition of how the NFL has handled these events. Pop-star singer Rihanna claims the NFL dropped her song after she issued an angry about the Ray Rice incident. For those of you who might not remember, former boyfriend and R&B singer Chris Brown has assaulted Rihanna back in 2009. You may or may not agree, but Rihanna, for her own part, has expressed in a vigorous manner her disapproval of that decision on Twitter. Meanwhile, Peterson has reacted lately to this controversy by apologizing for all the harm he has caused and has mentioned being currently seeing a psychologist to work on his difficulties.

I don’t want to conclude anything about these sad events too quickly as I do not know all the details and whole aspects of both of these situations.  However, I want to relate these events to the realities of many non-famous people, who might deal with these situations on a daily basis, without having the media spotlight on their personal lives and battles.

On domestic violence : a clear definition

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence is defined as:

The willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Violence against women is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, and thus is part of a systemic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence results in physical injury, psychological trauma, and sometimes death. The consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and truly last a lifetime. For More Information

Domestic Violence can be recurrent and lasting over time, but it can also be a single event. We often tend to believe that physical violence is the only form of domestic violence and while it can lead to very dramatic consequences such as death. Other forms such as emotional abuse, economic and physical isolation can be equally damaging. According to current statistics, 1 out of 4 women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifespan with female young adults are at a greater risk for it happening to them. It is also important to note,  the existence and suffering of male victims of domestic violence as well as domestic violence in same sex relationships.

As a result of recent events with Janay Rice, a lot of people are asking, why don’t victims of domestic violence just leave? The article #WhyIStayed: Voice for Domestic Violence Victims on Huffington Post can provide some answers to this question for you. A lot of victims will hesitate to leave (or will do and come back to their abuser) for many reasons. Some victims will fear for their lives or the lives of their romantic partner when suicide is threatened. The murder-suicide perpetrated by Jovan Belcher of Kansas City Chief against Kasandra Perkins the mother of his child.

For many others, the problem has been going on for so long that their self-esteem is completely crushed and they do not have the confidence to step up and realize that they do deserve better. Some spouses will use the children to blackmail their partner and the fear of losing custody of their kid can be strong enough for the victim to decide to stay in the relationship no matter how toxic it is. Domestic violence is a very complex issue, and there is rarely one and unique cause to it.

What about child abuse?

Child abuse is a very sensitive issue to most of us, but abuse can take various forms to include emotional abuse as well as physical abuse. Corporal Punishment is still legal in many states with the US. However, any discipline that leaves marks and bruises lasting longer than 24 hours can range from improper discipline to severe abuse depending on the severity of injuries to the child. Children are the most vulnerable citizens of our society and protective factors should be put in place that will allow them to develop and grow into their full potential. Children who are victims of child abuse experience increased risks for being victims of domestic violence or abusers in intimate relationships.

Where can you get help for domestic violence and child abuse?

If you suspect a child to be abused or neglected, you can call the National Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD. Crisis counselors are available 24/7 to listen to you and your concerns.

If you recognize yourself in this description of domestic violence, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE or you can visit their website at NDVH.org for more information.

I hope this article has been helpful and if you want to discuss it more further, I invite you to submit your comments or to tweet with me at @kharosc.

Big Win for Richard Sherman and the Sherman Family Foundation

After finding himself at the center of controversy for an epic trashing talking rant against San Francisco 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks went on to win Super Bowl 48 in epic proportions over the Denver Broncos. After a hail of racial epithets being hurled at him, Richard Sherman stated that a man should be judged for his activities off the field and whether he is an active member of his community.

rsherman1Raised by a social worker mother and a father who spent 30 years in public works, Beverly and Kevin Sherman from Compton, California instilled the value of giving back into their star athlete son. On July 2, 2013, Richard Sherman announced via Twitter the formation of the Sherman Family Foundation. Did I also mention that he is a Stanford graduate with a degree in communications?

According to the Seattle Seahawks blog,

With the help of his close family and friends, cornerback Richard Sherman has announced the launch of “Blanket Coverage – The Richard Sherman Family Foundation.” The All-Pro, Stanford graduate says the foundation will “channel it’s resources to ensure that as many children as possible are provided with proper school supplies and adequate clothing.” Read Full Article 

Prior to the formation of the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, Richard had already developed a reputation with his fans and the community as a charitable giver and philanthropist. He once organized an event for the Help A Hero Foundation which was attended by 7,500 people in order to help raise funds to purchase a home for an injured soldier.

The morning after a victory against the Arizona Cardinals, Richard Sherman went to Foster High School in Tukwila, Washington to speak with students about bullying and being a good citizen. He was also armed with school supplies and new cleats for the football team.

Despite Richard Sherman’s charitable actions and awesome play on the field, it was unfortunate that he and his family felt the need to defend their honor after the word “thug” was used to describe him over 48 times in the media after the win over the 49ers. Buzzfeed decided to take the time to re-introduce Richard Sherman and the Sherman Family Foundation in their ode to him entitled 23 Reasons Richard Sherman is Actually One of the Most Likeable Player in the NFL.

According to Buzzfeed,

Blanket Coverage, The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, provides kids with school supplies and clothes. Since Sherman’s charity was founded this past July, they’ve brought goods to four schools and nine community centers. Sherman’s stated goal isn’t “charity,” but leveling the playing field for kids who don’t have the things most people take for granted. Students sign a contract with him: In return for improving their grades, making good attendance, and being good citizens, he’ll continue to help them with clothes and supplies. The foundation also recently visited the Rescue Mission in Tacoma, Wash., and donated socks, blankets, shoes, board games, and books to 160 families who are homeless or trying to get their lives back on track after suffering from addiction. Read Full Article

I suppose Richard Sherman could use this Super Bowl win as vindication against the racial hate endured as a result of his rant against Michael Crabtree or maybe a possible I told you so could be in order. However, I think he will take the high road instead of taking a victory lap on his detractors. Richard Sherman had every opportunity to paint Michael Crabtree as a villain who at the time was being investigated for sexual assault, and the media never mentioned it while seeking an explanation from him about his on camera rant. Even, I was unaware until one of our writers wrote an article on sex and football.

Although Richard Sherman is still under a rookie contract, you wouldn’t know it from the amount he gives to charity. View the video below to see what the Richard Sherman Family Foundation has been up to in the midst of football season, and you can also connect with Richard on Twitter or on Facebook.

Photo Credits: Richard Sherman’s Instagram and Facebook

Seattle Seahawks Fullback Derrick Coleman Shares His Empowering Story & Inspires Young Fans

Regardless of who you are rooting for when it comes to the Super Bowl, there is no denying the empowering story of Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks’ fullback.  Earlier this month, Duracell released a commercial featuring Derrick Coleman that showcased how he remained steadfast in his ambition to play professional football, and his refusal to be defined by his different ability:

The commercial has captured the attention of many across the nation, especially those within the hearing-impaired community.  At the age of three, Coleman was diagnosed with an incurable hearing impairment that caused him to wear a hearing aid.  Coleman endured the negativity of people telling him to forgo his dreams because of his hearing impairment.  Instead of allowing such statements and attitudes to influence his life’s path, he decided to work harder to achieve his goals.

Coleman had faced setbacks on his journey to becoming a professional athlete. His name was not called during the 2012 NFL Draft.Though he was eventually signed by the Minnesota Vikings, he was cut right before the start of the season. Most people would have given up on their dream after experiencing such crushing defeats, but not Coleman.

After being cut from the Vikings, he decided to go back home, stay in shape, and remain connected to the sport he loved by working at Troy High School as the running back coach. His determination and talent led to him being signed by the Seattle Seahawks in December 2012 and becoming the first legally deaf offensive player in NFL history.

Joining the NFL was his great career aspiration, but the focus Coleman has now is to inspire children with disabilities to achieve their own dreams.  In an interview with Sports News, Coleman stated that he “wanted to inspire people, especially children, to trust the power within and achieve their goals.”  Coleman’s youngest fans are indeed watching his every move, and are encouraging him to continue to break glass ceilings.

Riley Kovalcik wrote a letter to Coleman, and shared that she and her twin sister had something in common with the NFL star – they, too, wear hearing aids.  In the letter, Riley remarked at how she understood what Coleman goes through, she encouraged him to do his best, and stated that she had faith in him.  The letter was shared on Twitter by Riley’s father, Jake Kovalcik, and has since gone viral on social media.

Being moved by the letter, Derrick Coleman wrote a response to the girls, and tweeted his letter.  Coleman thanked the girls for showing their support to him and the Seahawks, and stated that they are more than capable of achieving their hopes and desires, regardless of their hearing ability.

As a person who has moderate hearing loss due to my disability, and wears two hearing aids, seeing Coleman’s story has had a profound impact on myself, like countless others.  Coleman’s story may be considered “inspiring,” but in actuality, he made the conscious decision to not allow his seemingly “limitation” to control his destiny.  Coleman represents the millions of people with different abilities in this country who are shattering glass ceilings and making a name for themselves in their respective fields.

We need more of these stories to be shared so that children, adolescents, and adults with disabilities will know that the only person who can truly hinder their progress is themselves.  Representation of people with disabilities in the media, sports, etc. is needed, and I am proud that Coleman is representing the millions like Riley and myself through his sportsmanship and by sharing his life story.

Duracell Derrick Coleman Commercial (Extended Cut)

NFL Goes Purple But A Social Worker Calls Them Out On Domestic Violence

NFLpurpleAs a result of a request made by Outsports, the Thursday Night NFL Broadcasting crew wore purple in honor of spirit day for last night’s October 17th football game between the Seahawks and the Cardinals. National Spirit Day is an annual event which promotes awareness for anti-LGBT bullying and offers a show of support for LGBT youth. This subtle action by members of the NFL community helps to move the conversation forward in bringing the message of anti-bullying to a national audience. However, it must be acknowledged that there is a growing movement for the NFL to address increasing occurrences of domestic violence involving its players.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and a Baltimore Social Worker has been circulating a change.org petition urging NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, to take a preventive stance in addressing domestic violence in the league. After the murder-suicide perpetrated by Kansas City Chief, linebacker, Jovan Belcher, it appears the league has not taken any measures to address the increasing incidents of domestic violence.

Gretchen Tome, the author of the petition, is a Clinical Social Worker who works with families affected by domestic violence in Baltimore, Maryland. In the wake of Kasandra Perkins’ murder, the media paid more attention to Belcher’s suicide than the loss of her life at the hands of domestic violence according to Tome. In her appeal and petition to Commissioner Goodell, she cites:

There are 32 NFL teams in the league and 21 of those teams have players who have at some point in time faced domestic assault or sexual assault charges. Kansas City Chiefs’ former running back, Larry Johnson, was arrested in October for choking his girlfriend. Miami Dolphins’ receiver Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was arrested in August for headbutting his wife. In March, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was accused of punching a woman in the face outside of a nightclub.

The list is long. And something has to change.

These high profile cases give the NFL the opportunity to do more. In July, the NFL established LifeLine — a program for players, coaches, team and staff in crisis. And Comissioner Roger Goodell started a “mental health initiative” for players, staff and coaches. But it remains unclear if these new programs have had impact. Under current rules, the NFL  has the ability to fine or suspend any player facing charges that relate to domestic assault. Sign the Petition

If the NFL wanted to tackle this issue, they have more than enough resources at their disposal. There are a host of organizations and campaigns working to end domestic violence and sexual assaults, and No More is one of many organizations dedicated to this cause. Their website is full of information, public service announcements (PSA), and tool kits for those who are interested in taking action. You can visit them at http://nomore.org/.

View a PSA by Christopher Meloni who played Elliott on Law and Order Special Victims Unit:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tajpGmYczXU&list=PLRH4qMDKG2FHUm_VEtUkK2pXWdtJuzoeN[/youtube]

Warrick Dunn Charities Help Single Parents Become Homeowners

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Former NFL star, Warrick Dunn, is mostly known for his athletic ability. During 12 seasons in the NFL, Dunn was selected to the Pro Bowl, 3 times, and he was also the Rookie of the Year in 1997. As a rookie in the NFL, Dunn instantly decided that his true mission was to help underprivileged families. During his rookie campaign in 1997, Dunn organized the Homes for the Holidays(HFTH) program. The HFTH program rewards single-parent families for reaching first-time homeownership.

In 2002, Dunn started the Warrick Dunn Charities which has partnered with Habitat for Humanity and Aaron’s Rents to provide families with completely furnished homes, food, and personal supplies. Since their establishment, the HFTH and WDC  programs have assisted over 115 single parents and over 300 dependents in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Tampa, and Tallahassee.

Dunn’s inspiration to be active in charity came from his mother Betty Dunn Smothers. His mother, a police officer, had dreams of owning a home to provide for her, and six children were never reached because she was killed while on duty. His mother inspired him through every positive decision he has made in life since her tragic death. In July 2012, Warrick Dunn Charities launched Betty’s Hope, a children’s bereavement program that works to empower youth as they manage their grief in a responsive environment to heal and enhance their quality of life.

Dunn’s hardships have molded him into a highly motivated person who wants to prevent children, and families, from going through the rough times that he and his own family endured. Most former NFL players take jobs in the media or stay out of the spotlight.

Dunn was inspired to continue helping families grow and providing housing to single-parents through the Home for the Holidays, and Warrick Dunn Charity programs. Dunn is still inspired by his mother’s dream, which motivates him to push harder for himself, and hundreds of families. Check out the link below for more information on Dunn’s charity programs.

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