TOWNSHIP – Former NFL punter Greg Coleman stopped by to collect his thoughts on Friday night at a social justice forum at the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic events this weekend.
Coleman, the first black punter drafted in NFL history, was on a panel discussing what can be done to take advantage of the opportunities available to those who have never feared or threatened violence in because of their race or ethnicity or faced with other problems and obstacles.
“Football allows me to cross a line that most of us say are privileged,” said Coleman, a 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee in Canton. “We have the privilege of having a safe environment, a safe community, of not worrying about where my next meal comes from.
“Without this soccer game it would have been difficult, and it was difficult to grow up until I crossed the line… from education, until I crossed the exhibition line, until what I cross the line of mentoring, until I cross the line of understanding teamwork (and) camaraderie …
“Some elements of privilege depend on the opportunity, and if you have the opportunity with the preparation, then that’s one thing, but you can have a preparation without an opportunity, (and) you still can’t cross that line, so let me clarify that. “
This was followed by a discussion of the role sport can play in uniting people who might otherwise be divided by issues of race and inequality.
Who was part of the panel at the forum?
Moderating the panel was Andrew MacIntosh, Director of Programming for RISE (Ross Initiative In Sports for Inequality). The national nonprofit association educates and empowers the sports community to eliminate racial discrimination, advocate for social justice and improve race relations.
Coleman appeared on the Pro Football Hall of Fame panel: Jerry Schroer Jr., general manager of the Schroer Group in Jackson Township; Keeley Randell, executive assistant to the President and CEO of the Professional Football Hall of Fame, David Baker and 25-year veteran of the United States Army; Stark County District Attorney and Ordained Pastor Kyle Stone; and Kimberly R. Diemert, executive director of the Hue Jackson Foundation, which raises awareness about human trafficking while working to prevent victims.
Take a “privilege walk”
The discussion was fueled by a “walk of privilege” exercise in which panelists answered 20 true and false questions, including those relating to issues of race, discrimination and inequality.
Questions included: I know where I will be living in a month; the people I study / study in history class look like me; my parent / guardian has a university degree; I feel confident in my plans to launch or advance my career; I have never been afraid of being hungry or having access to a healthy meal; I have never been afraid or threatened with violence because of my gender or my sexual orientation; growing up, I had heroes who looked like me; I don’t have a “foreign” accent; I had access to organized sports; and I feel safe walking alone at night.
“You could see through your questions the growth of being a child and having struggles while becoming an adult and being able to overcome those struggles,” Randell said during the discussion.
Forum participants were asked if the “privilege walk” activity “changed” their definition of privilege.
Stone, the county attorney, said: “It’s really… using opportunities to make it a privilege, but at the same time, some people’s opportunities are easier than others, and it’s So it’s really about trying to do your best. (with) whatever limitations you have. “
Stone spoke of the inspiration he draws from members of the Black College Football Hall of Fame who were in the audience, including Doug Williams, Mel Blount, Art Shell and James Harris.
Williams and Harris co-founded the Black College Football Hall of Fame, located at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
“Listening to these stories from these pioneers … just gives me chills as a 38 year old man to see what they have set up before for us, for generations to come, and therefore sometimes the opportunities that they had, they had to fight for it, but then they made it easier for those who came next, ”he said.
Citing his own journey to being elected as a Black County District Attorney, he said: “Our privilege can change the ability to gain privilege and access for generations to come, and so my definition is still the same – these are the limitations and it’s our job now that we’ve experienced it to help remove those limitations. “
Schroer said that “speaking to our group of CEOs, you learn stories that black leaders in our community growing up would be arrested by the police … (and) I never had these things … so to me it’s really … said, “Boy, I really am that privilege, just … by the color of my skin”, and with that comes the responsibility, and with the privilege, I believe that all of us, regardless of our race, if we experience this opportunity and privilege, no matter how it presents itself, we have a responsibility to try to help others move forward with us. ”
The importance of humanity
Coleman, a 2021 Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee, closed the forum by speaking out on the question of “humanity” regarding the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in May 2020 after A white Minneapolis policeman put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Floyd’s death led to local and national protests over the race issue.
“Sport gives you attention, but see, when I take my jersey off… I’m just another black man,” Coleman said. “See, if you use the jersey, it gives you attention, it gives you the opportunity, but what message are you saying …”
Coleman took a long pause while looking up.
“George Floyd could have been any of our players on the street,” he continued. “… And that cop didn’t look at the humanity of George Floyd.
“… So until we look at humanity, we are still going to struggle, and I applaud RISE and I applaud all organizations, but until we can look at humanity, we are going to have a hell of a long way to go. “
Contact Ed at 330-580-8315 and [email protected]
On Twitter @ebalintREP
The Classic Black College Football Hall of Fame Weekend features four days of events, culminating in a Sunday game between Grambling State University and Tennessee State University. Here is an overview of other upcoming activities:
• Classic Fun Fest and Community Day from 10 am to 5 pm today at Centennial Plaza downtown. The event is free. It will feature Elec Simon and CTown Radio. There will also be vendors, drumline performances, Canton Idol singers and a performance by the Grambling State Marching Band. Grammy-nominated artist Marvin Sapp to perform after 5 p.m.
• A free rooftop concert hosted by Marcus Martin from 7 to 9:30 p.m. today at the Beauty Spot, 132 Fifth St.
• Official All White Affair from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. today at the Canton Cultural Center of the Arts, 1001 Market Ave. N. The event, hosted by Divine 9, will feature Hubb’s Groove and DJ LoKey. Tickets cost $ 40. For tickets, go to: officialallwhiteaffair.com.
• Classic interfaith service 9-10: 30 a.m. Sunday at Centennial Plaza downtown. Several pastors, rabbis and others will perform services. Communion will be available. In case of rain, the event will take place at Crossroads United Methodist Church, 120 Cleveland Ave. SW.
• Classic pre-game night at 11 am Sunday on the Professional Football Hall of Fame campus.
• Classic “Black Jacket” meeting lunch at 11:30 am Sunday at the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
• Minority affairs reception from 1 pm to 3 pm Sunday at the Nash Family Event & Conference Center at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The cost is $ 10 for minority businesses. For more details, send an email to [email protected]
• Classic match at 4:00 p.m. between Grambling State University and Tennessee State University at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium
• Cool Jazz Showcase at 9 pm Sunday at the Onesto Event Center, 225 Second St. NW. Tickets cost $ 40.
• After the classic football party starting at 7 p.m. on Sunday at 220 Dueber Ave. SW. The cost is $ 15 in advance and $ 20 on site. Correct dress is required and the event is reserved for 25 years and over. It will feature DJ Panik.
• All Together Now Family Festival 11 am to 3 pm Mondays at Centennial Plaza. The event, hosted by Elec Simon, will feature performances by Bungles the Clown, tales from World of Difference Artistic Director Lindsay Bonilla, West African dance from the Djapo Cultural Arts Institute, ventriloquist Lynn Trefzger and the headliner The Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. There will be food trucks and vendors.
For more details on the weekend, visit: https://www.profootballhof.com/BCFHOFClassic21.