By William E. Ketchum III | firstname.lastname@example.org
ESPN's Chris Broussard speaks at the Flint Big Brothers Big Sisters 70th anniversary gala at Art Van Furniture in Flint on Friday, Sept. 12.
FLINT, M -- Chris Broussard makes a living by giving his views on sports on national TV on ESPN, and during the first of two stops in Flint on Friday, he had a lot to say.
But sports were only a small part of his message: He was more focused on speaking about systemic racism, the need for a reconstruction of the black male image, and the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo..
Broussard spoke at the Flint Big Brothers Big Sisters Anniversary gala at Art Van Furniture, and he will speak again on Saturday, Sept. 13, at Charity United Methodist Church, located at 4601 Clio Road, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
"If you look at the history of the country, it's really clear that everything that could be used -- religion, science, the law, not to mention physical weapons, propaganda, the press, literature -- all of it was used to put a negative stigma and a negative image to black men," Broussard said during an interview. "While it's come a long way, we still have not eradicated that image."
As evidence for those image issues, Broussard cited unarmed black men such as Ferguson teen Mike Brown who have been killed by police, and blacks who are incarcerated for drug use at higher rates than whites. Blacks are 13 percent of drug users and sellers in the United States, he said, but 74 percent of the people sent to prison for drug-related crimes.
"That means that we're sending black people to jail and prison for something you're not sending white people to jail and prison for. That's unjust," he said. "We know that there are as many drugs done on a college campus as there are in the projects, but the entire focus is on the 'hood.'"
"...Statistics show that a black man with an associate's degree has the same opportunity to get a job as a white man with a high school diploma. So there's challenges even for blacks without a record, with a good education," he said. "So when you put a record on it for smoking marijuana, which a kid in the suburbs does but there's no record of that, that's a problem, because that makes it hard for this brother to get a good job, and to get a good education, and to be good marriage material, and to be the type of father that he would like to be and be the authority that a father needs."
Such a disparate prison system makes organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters so necessary, he said, and puts the children in its program at risk.
But systemic racism isn't the only issue -- Broussard said that popular hip-hop music shows an embrace of that negative image, which misleads people who don't have regular interaction with blacks.
Addressing both systemic racism and blacks' own behavior is the only way to honestly address the problem, Broussard said.
Broussard also made sports references at the event. While citing the importance of mentors to the audience, he cited LeBron James' high school coach Keith B. Dambrot, who inspired him to maximize his potential as one of the most business-savvy professional athletes in the country, and care for friends such as Maverick Carter and Rich Paul by letting them administer his career and set up successful careers of their own.
During his interview with Flint Journal, he also spoke about Ray Rice and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who are under fire after video of Rice hitting his then-fiancée in an elevator surfaced. Critics think the NFL mishandled discipline for Rice, and Goodell's job is in question. Rice was sentenced to a pre-trial intervention program.
"I think he deserves significant punishment for what he did. We're seeing more and more come out...and it seems as if the league, or should I say Roger Goodell, may have lied about a few things," he said. "If that's the case, going forward, he may not be able to have the credibility that he needs to continue doing the job as commissioner. I don't know if that's going to happen or not, but we're just watching it all play out."
He also expressed well wishes for Rice and his wife, and for Rice to get a chance at redemption once he gets his life back together.
"Hopefully Ray Rice and his wife can straighten things out, and hopefully Ray can get the help that he needs to learn from his mistakes," he said. "It was a terrible mistake, but everyone has made really bad mistakes."
Other players in the NFL are also involved in domestic abuse cases: Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy is filing an appeal after being found guilty, and San Francisco 49ers tackle Ray McDonald was taken into custody for questioning but not formally charged.
Broussard said that players should be punished when they're found guilty, but that they shouldn't be penalized without going to trial or being convicted.
"If you're found guilty, you probably shouldn't be playing. Or at least you should get some type of suspension. ... I don't think you should stop a player from playing or lay down a suspension just because somebody has been accused or charged with something," he said. "These guys are targets. When they're wrong, or proven to be wrong, they should pay the consequences. But just because they're accused of doing something doesn't mean they did it. I think you have to wait and let the justice system play out, and remember that everyone is innocent until proven guilty.
"We're kind of holding the NFL to a higher standard than we're holding our judicial system, and that shouldn't be the case," he said.
Friday's gala also included a tap dancing performance by Tapology student Tyrone Hunter and performer Sanika Chitre, and honored several Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteers and partners.
Connie Owens received the School Site Based Big of the Year 2014 Award, Julia Fields received the Florence Riddell Big Sister of the Year 2014 Award, Raul Garcia received the Jim Mitchell Award for Big Brother of the Year, the Start Something Award was given to the Flint Youth Initiative and Judge Berg, Tim Horton's and Elie Damouni were given the Celia Turner Above and Beyond Award, Stat Ems' Marc Lund was given to the For Kids' Sake Award, Clifton Turner received the Joe Shovels Lifetime Service Award, and Robert Bois was given the Joe Ryder Leadership Award.