Moving today’s racial discourse from rhetoric to results

The Civil Rights Movement could not have enjoyed a more eloquent spokesperson than the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. His “I Have a Dream” speech remains as relevant, and referenced, today as it was when he made it more than 50 years ago. The challenge when discussing race relations in today’s society, is to elevate that conversation, to move from rhetoric to results. The former inflames, the latter advances. It’s all in the narrative, according to Packer Hall of Famer and current Northeast Wisconsin resident Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila. “I have black kids. An ex-teammate once asked me, ‘Have you ever thought twice about raising your kids in this environment where they’re the minority?’ I have a hard time relating to that discussion,” he said. “I’m getting to the point where when I fill out a form that asks for race I’m going to write, ‘human.’” It wasn’t always that way. Born and raised in South Central LA, Gbaja-Biamila initially learned to mistrust white people. “They made you very aware of how we as a people were mistreated,” he said. “I grew up thinking all white people were bad.” A junior high math teacher changed his perception and played a key role in altering the whole trajectory of Kabeer’s life. Mr. Guy Reed not only taught, he also trusted his young student, and the experience had a profound and lasting effect. “For a white guy to give me the keys to the whole school, it really inspired me,” he said. “Mr. Reed was a kind man. He taught me something and I still visit him today.” The steady chipping away of mutual racial biases continued as Kabeer made his way through college and the professional football ranks. One year, Kabeer accepted an internship to help coach track at Pulaski High School. He sensed the coach didn’t trust him, so he made sure to prove him wrong. “I had a feeling that this… | Read More »

NFL contracts require new paradigm in investing

Former Indianapolis Colt Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas set a standard for NFL excellence during his record-setting 19-year career. Sadly, he also ranks among the NFL elite for staggering financial collapse after he borrowed from the City of Baltimore and the state of Maryland to fund a circuit board manufacturing company that quickly failed. Unitas filed for bankruptcy, and launched a financial battle that lasted more than 10 years after his death. Prior to his collapse, Unitas had invested in a string of a risky investments including a chain of bowling establishments, a prime-rib restaurant, an air-freight company and Florida real estate. Unitas’ story of NFL success swiftly followed by financial collapse remains compelling both for its pathos and its prevalence. In 2009 Sports Illustrated published its landmark survey noting that 78 percent of former NFL players end up bankrupt or facing severe financial stress within two years of retirement from football, and in the six years since, things have not improved. The roll call continues to astound: Terrell Owens, Warren Sapp, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Andre Rison, Bernie Kosar, Bart Scott, Tiki Barber, JaMarcus Russell, Mark Brunnell, Lawrence Taylor, Chris McAlister, Deuce McAllister, Vince Young, Sean Salisbury all filed for bankruptcy after lucrative careers. So ubiquitous are the bankruptcy filings, that the NFL revamped its Rookie Symposium program in 2007 to focus on post-career success. The NFL tries, but, according to former NFL player and Packer Hall of Fame member Kabeer Gbaja Biamila, that education only goes so far. “The NFL does its best, but the rookie symposium is only for people who are drafted. It doesn’t include players who sign as free agents,” he said. “And then, the players who do attend aren’t always paying attention. They give them information but these guys are thinking, ‘This will never happen to me. My situation is different.’” NFL players may understand the risk of getting hit on a cross-route, but… | Read More »