Archive for the ‘National Football League’ Category

By Stephanie Meade
Founder, Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent.com

When the multilingual Coke ad came under siege at first I couldn’t be bothered to listen to the noise, because that’s all it was to me — misguided rumbling that didn’t deserve attention. But as the #speakamerican clamor crowded headlines and my twitter stream, I knew our children were the ones who had the most powerful message for us all.

Bilingualism is the proud voice of the U.S. with a growing percentage of children growing up bilingual and multilingual. For these kids, bilingualism is just as American as French fries, apple pies and pizza. And then add in some curry, tagine and tamales too. Currently one in five households, including my own, speak a language other than English at home. And those statistics don’t even count the speakers of English at home that are learning a new language at school. There are over 530 immersion schools in this country and demand for them is outpacing supply in many communities. When I hear polemics about English only, it confounds me why so many see language in zero-sum terms. English can and does peacefully coexist together with hundreds of other languages, as it always has. English-only discourses are a rearview mirror perspective of our nation, one that fails to confront the reality of the present or consider the future of our country in the context of a globalized world.

Speaking another language is not a threat to the fabric of the U.S. — it is the very thread that makes the fabric beautiful. And more than that, it is the thread that when woven together gives us strength. So let’s stop looking in the rearview mirror and start considering the America that will lead us into the future.

What language does America speak? English and over 300 other languages.

I speak English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. I’ve studied Russian, Japanese and German. And I’m learning Arabic.

#ispeakamerican

What languages do you speak?

* Please note: We tried very hard to find a Native American language to represent in our clip, and regret we could not find one in time. There were also many other languages we wanted to include, and it was strictly a matter of timing that we couldn’t represent more.

This video was originally published on InCultureParent, an online magazine for parents raising little global citizens.

Follow Stephanie Meade on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/incultureparent

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by Mark Memmott

Whether or not you like the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys, this news may warm your heart: Jon Kitna, who is coming out of retirement to be the team’s emergency quarterback on Sunday, plans to donate his $53,000 paycheck from the game to the Tacoma, Wash., high school where he now teaches math and coaches football.

According to the Dallas Morning News:

“Much has been made of the Cowboys signing high school math teacher Jon Kitna out of retirement to figure into their quarterback puzzle against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. Almost every reference has mentioned the quarterback, who retired from the Cowboys after the 2011 season, will earn about $53,000 for his Christmas week’s work.

“Only Kitna, 41, is not keeping the money. It didn’t come up in his Christmas Day media scrum in the locker room. But later, while relaxing on a locker room couch and reconnecting with radio play-by-play voice Brad Sham, Kitna said he would be donating his NFL check to his school [Lincoln High in Tacoma]. He also told several teammates.”

Kitna has been pressed into service by the team because a herniated disc may keep starting quarterback Tony Romo from playing. Romo’s backup, Kyle Orton, is expected to start instead. Kitna has been tapped to be Orton’s backup and he’s helping at practices this week while Romo rests.

Sunday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles is important: Whichever team wins will get into the playoffs. NBC-TV is the broadcaster.

Lincoln High, according to The Seattle Times, is where Kitna went to high school. He guided his team “to an 8-2 record this season, but the Abes lost to eventual state runner-up Eastside Catholic in the district playoffs. Kitna is 13-7 in two seasons as head coach.”

He retired after the 2011 season. Kitna’s last three years were with the Cowboys — mostly as Romo’s backup. Earlier in his career, he had been a starter with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals and Detroit Lions.

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2013/12/26/257372387/cowboys-emergency-qb-kitna-will-give-away-his-pay

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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Bob Costas, in the powerful halftime slot of NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” joined in the growing sentiment that the Washington Redskins’ nickname is offensive and the team should change it.

In an even-handed essay, Costas said that the name is demeaning, despite no ill will being intended by anyone involved with the Redskins, including owner Daniel Snyder, or their fans. President Barack Obama recently said he would consider changing the name if he was the owner of the team, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the league needs to consider the issue.

During his halftime essay, Costas brought up complaints about other team names like Braves, Warriors or Chiefs, and how that seems like “political correctness run amok,” but said the Redskins nickname is different.

“These nicknames honor, rather than demean,” Costas said.

Costas said names like Blackhawks, Seminoles and Chippewas are trickier, but are OK if the “symbols are appropriately respectful,” something MLB’s Cleveland Indians and its Chief Wahoo mascot haven’t always lived up to.

Costas, whose halftime essays on end-zone celebrations in 2011 and gun control in 2012 became hot-button topics, closed his thoughts on the Redskins’ name by saying it can justifiably be seen as offensive.

Here’s the full transcript of Costas’ essay:

“With Washington playing Dallas here tonight, it seems like an appropriate time to acknowledge the ongoing controversy about the name “Redskins.”

“Let’s start here. There is no reason to believe that owner Daniel Snyder, or any official or player from his team, harbors animus toward Native Americans or wishes to disrespect them. This is undoubtedly also true of the vast majority of those who don’t think twice about the longstanding moniker. And in fact, as best can be determined, even a majority of Native Americans say they are not offended.

“But, having stipulated that, there’s still a distinction to be made. Objections to names like “Braves,” “Chiefs,” “Warriors,” and the like strike many of us as political correctness run amok. These nicknames honor, rather than demean. They are pretty much the same as “Vikings,” “Patriots,” or even “Cowboys.” And names like “Blackhawks,” “Seminoles,” and “Chippewas,” while potentially more problematic, can still be okay provided the symbols are appropriately respectful – which is where the Cleveland Indians with the combination of their name and “Chief Wahoo” logo have sometimes run into trouble.

“A number of teams, mostly in the college ranks, have changed their names in response to objections. The Stanford Cardinal and the Dartmouth Big Green were each once the Indians; the St. John’s Redmen have become the Red Storm, and the Miami of Ohio Redskins – that’s right, Redskins – are now the Red Hawks.

“Still, the NFL franchise that represents the nation’s capital has maintained its name. But think for a moment about the term “Redskins,” and how it truly differs from all the others. Ask yourself what the equivalent would be, if directed toward African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, or members of any other ethnic group.

“When considered that way, “Redskins” can’t possibly honor a heritage, or noble character trait, nor can it possibly be considered a neutral term. It’s an insult, a slur, no matter how benign the present-day intent. It is fair to say that for a long time now, and certainly in 2013, no offense has been intended. But, if you take a step back, isn’t it clear to see how offense “might” legitimately be taken?”http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/bob-costas-during-halftime-nbc-sunday-night-football-022727321–nfl.html?vp=1

Thanks to Ray Gaudette for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

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It’s one of the NFL’s bigger rivalries, the Cowboys vs. the Redskins. And intentional or not, Sunday’s game occurs during Columbus Day weekend, deepening the meaning of a fresh conflict about whether “Redskins” slurs Indians, their leaders say.

More than 500 years after Christopher Columbus’ encounter with the natives of the Americas, any enduring uneasiness between Indians and mainstream society is exemplified by the controversy over the Washington Redskins name, which took a new turn last week when President Obama spoke of “legitimate concerns” that the mascot is racist, some Indian leaders say.

Team owners strongly dispute any racism behind the mascot and won’t change it, saying the Redskins name honors “where we came from, who we are.”

But many Native Americans contend it’s incredulous that a major sports team in the nation’s capital fails to see the word’s offensiveness, especially in a game Sunday whose rival mascots conjure up the bygone real bloodshed between cowboys and Indians. Some news outlets and sports writers agree and aren’t printing “Redskin” in their stories about the NFL team.

“After 500 years, it’s pretty unbelievable that this issue is at the forefront right now,” said Jason Begay, a Navajo who’s an assistant professor and director of the Native American Journalism Project at the University of Montana. “Even in the last 50 years (of the civil rights movement), we learned so much. It’s just ridiculous that this is an issue.”

The NFL team disagrees. In response, the Oneida Indian Nation of New York began airing this weekend a radio ad protesting the Redskins mascot in the Dallas Cowboys’ hometown. The ad, entitled “Bipartisan,” quotes how Obama, a Democrat, and Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican leader in the House, disapprove of the Redskins name.

Washington team owner Dan Snyder stepped up his defense of the moniker this month. Last spring, he told USA Today he will “never” change the name.

“Our fans sing ‘Hail to the Redskins’ in celebration at every Redskins game. They speak proudly of ‘Redskins Nation’ in honor of a sports team they love,” Snyder wrote in a letter to fans.

“After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come,” he continued.

“I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name. But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too,” Snyder said, citing several polls conducted in recent years that show that a majority of people do not want the name changed.

But American Indians like Begay worry about the normalization of an epithet. He’s also vice president of the Native American Journalists Association, which launched last month a media resource page on its website about offensive Native American mascots in U.S. sports.

“We’re on the verge of laying back and letting this name run rampant when we can actually make a difference, which is what we all should be striving for,” Begay said. “I’m glad to see there are so many organizations like NAJA and the (U.S.) President who are standing against it.”

Obama said last week that if he were the team’s owner, he would “think about changing it,” referring to the mascot.

Obama added that “I don’t know whether our attachment to a particular name should override the real, legitimate concerns that people have about these things.” The ad also airs a quote by Cole saying “the name is just simply inappropriate. It is offensive to a lot of people.”

The political leaders’ remarks are repeated in the radio ad advanced by the Oneida Indian Nation and its leader Ray Halbritter, who’s also CEO of Oneida Nation Enterprises, which operates a casino and other businesses.

Halbritter acknowledged his tribe’s “Change the Mascot” campaign faces an uphill struggle. He refers to the mascot as “the R-word,” without explicitly stating it.

“Well, history is littered with people who have vowed never to change something — slavery, immigration, women’s rights — so we think one thing that’s really great about this country is when many people speak out, change can happen,” Halbritter said.

When asked about other team mascots such as the Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Blackhawks, Halbritter cited how “redskin” is defined in the Merriam-Webster Unabridged online dictionary as “usually offensive.”

“Let’s be clear. The name, the R word, is defined in the dictionary as an offensive term. It’s a racial epithet. It’s a racial slur. I think there is a broader discussion to be had about using mascots generally and the damage it does to people and their self-identity. But certainly there’s no gray area on this issue,” he said.

Halbritter asserted the word was born out of hatred — and referred to the long, ugly history between the native people of the Americas and the colonizers from Europe who followed Columbus.

“Its origin is hated, use is hated, it was the name our people — that was used against our people when we were forced off our lands at gunpoint. It was a name that was used when our children were forced out of our homes and into boarding schools,” he said. “So, it has a sordid history. And it’s time for a change, and we hope that — and what’s great is when enough people do recognize that, change will come.”

Fans are sharply divided about the issue.

A non-scientific online poll by the Washington Post shows 43% saying the team should change its name. But 57% say no, keep it. One respondent said the term is “a racist holdover from another day, a time when Indians were depicted as violent, ignorant, savages (by) whites (who largely were equally violent, ignorant and savage).”

But another respondent referred to political correctness and said: “The liberal PC society has gotten out of control, if you don’t like the teams name THEN DON’T WATCH THEM…!”

Redskins attorney Lanny Davis said the mascot is “not about race, not about disrespect.”

At games, he joins fans in singing “Hail to the Redskins” because “it’s a song of honor, it’s a song of tribute.”

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/12/us/redskins-controversy/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

redskins

President Barack Obama has weighed in. The pro football commissioner, has too. And now, a Native American tribe hopes recent attention to controversy surrounding the name of Washington’s National Football League team will provide the momentum needed to get it changed.

As NFL executives arrived in the nation’s capital for their annual fall meeting on Monday, the Oneida Indian Nation held a symposium in town to discuss their campaign to find a new name for the Washington Redskins after 80 years.

“We are asking the NFL to stop using a racial slur as the name of Washington’s football team,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter.

The “Change the Mascot” campaign launched last month with a string of radio ads airing in Washington and cities where the Redskins play this season.

The NFL executives were invited to the symposium, but Halbritter said none attended.

In an interview with the Associated Press last week, Obama said if he were the owner of the Redskins and he knew the name was “offending a sizable group of people,” then he would “think about changing it.”

Halbritter began his remarks by thanking the president for weighing in.

“As the first sitting president to speak out against the Washington team name, President Obama’s comments over the weekend were nothing less than historic,” Halbritter said. “Isn’t that the real issue? No matter what the history of something is, if it’s offending people, then it’s time to change it. And this is a great time to do it.”

A Washington Post poll from June indicated that two-thirds of people who live in the D.C. metropolitan area didn’t want the Redskins to change their name, but more than eight in 10 said it wouldn’t make much of a difference to them if the name were changed.

Last month, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who had previously expressed support for the team mascot, changed his tone on the “The LaVar Arrington Show with Chad Dukes” on 106.7 The Fan in Washington.

“I want all of us to go out and make sure we’re listening to our fans, listening to people of a different view, and making sure that we continue to do what’s right to make sure that team represents the strong tradition and history that it has for so many years,” Goodell said.

The NFL confirmed on Monday that it would meet with Oneida leaders.

But Redskins owner Dan Snyder has steadfastly refused to consider it, telling USA Today last spring that he will “NEVER” change his team’s name, even if they lose an ongoing federal trademark lawsuit that would stop the NFL team from exclusively profiting from the Redskins name.

In addition to the federal trademark lawsuit, a group of U.S. lawmakers drafted a bill last spring to cancel trademark registrations that use the name “Redskins.” Two of them, Democrats Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia, and Rep. Betty McCollum of Minnesota attended Monday’s forum to voice their support.

http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/07/us/washington-redskins-name/index.html?hpt=hp_bn1

Washington-Redskins

It is time that the National Football League and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell face the reality that the continued use of the word “redskin” is unacceptable. It is a racist, derogatory term and patently offensive to Native Americans. The Native American community has spent millions of dollars over the last two decades trying earnestly to fight the racism that is perpetuated by this slur. The fact that the NFL and Commissioner Goodell continue to deny this is a shameful testament of the mistreatment of Native Americans for so many years. It is quite obvious that once the American public understands why the word “redskins” is so offensive, they will know that the word should never be used again.

The origin of the term “Redskins” is commonly attributed to the historical practice of trading Native American Indian scalps and body parts as bounties and trophies. For example, in 1749, the British bounty on the Mi’kmaq Nation of what is now Maine and Nova Scotia, was a straightforward “ten Guineas for every Indian Micmac taken or killed, to be paid upon producing such Savage taken or his scalp.”

Just as devastating was the Phips Proclamation, issued in 1755 by Spencer Phips, Lieutenant Governor and Commander in Chief of the Massachusetts Bay Province, who called for the wholesale extermination of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

By vote of the General Court of the Province, settlers were paid out of the public treasury for killing and scalping the Penobscot people. The bounty for a male Penobscot Indian above the age of 12 was 50 pounds, and his scalp was worth 40 pounds. The bounty for a female Penobscot Indian of any age and for males under the age of 12 was 25 pounds, while their scalps were worth 20 pounds. These scalps were called “redskins.”

The question is quite simple: suppose that a “redskin” scalp that was brought for payment was your mother, your wife, your daughter, your father, your husband, or your son? The fact is Native Americans are human beings, not animals.

The current Chairman and Chief of the Penobscot Nation, Chief Kirk Francis, recently declared in a joint statement that “redskins” is “not just a racial slur or a derogatory term,” but a painful “reminder of one of the most gruesome acts of . . . ethnic cleansing ever committed against the Penobscot people.” The hunting and killing of Penobscot Indians, as stated by Chief Francis, was “a most despicable and disgraceful act of genocide.”

Recently, I and nine Members of Congress explained the violent history and disparaging nature of the term “redskins” in a letter to Mr. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington football franchise. Similar letters were sent to Mr. Frederick Smith, President and CEO of FedEx (a key sponsor for the franchise), and to Mr. Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National Football League.

As of today, Mr. Snyder has yet to respond. Mr. Smith ignored our letter as well, opting instead to have a staff member cite contractual obligations as FedEx’s reason for its silence on the subject.

Mr. Goodell, however, in a dismissive manner, declared that the team’s name “is a unifying force that stands for strength, courage, pride and respect.” In other words, the NFL is telling everyone—Native Americans included—that they cannot be offended because the NFL means no offense. Essentially, Mr. Goodell attempts to wash away the stain from a history of persecution against Native American peoples by spreading twisted and false information concerning the use of the word “redskins” by one of the NFL’s richest franchises.

Mr. Goodell’s response is indicative of the Washington football franchise’s own racist and bigoted beginnings. The team’s founder, George Preston Marshall, is identified by historians as the driving force behind the effort to prevent African Americans from playing in the NFL. And once African Americans were allowed to play in 1946, Marshall was the last club owner to field an African American player – a move he reluctantly made some 14 years later in 1962. It should be noted that Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall and U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy presented Marshall with an ultimatum – unless Marshall signed an African American player, the government would revoke his franchise’s 30-year lease on the use of the D.C. Stadium.

Congressman Tom Cole, the Representative from Oklahoma, Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, and a member of the Chikasaw Nation, states: “This is the 21st century. This is the capital of political correctness on the planet. It is very, very, very offensive. This isn’t like warriors or chiefs. It’s not a term of respect, and it’s needlessly offensive to a large part of our population. They just don’t happen to live around Washington, D.C.”

Congresswoman Betty McCollum, the Representative from Minnesota and Co-Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, states that Mr. Goodell’s letter “is another attempt to justify a racial slur on behalf of [Mr.] Dan Snyder,” owner of the Washington franchise, “and other NFL owners who appear to be only concerned with earning ever larger profits, even if it means exploiting a racist stereotype of Native Americans. For the head of a multi-billion dollar sports league to embrace the twisted logic that ‘[r]edskin’ actually ‘stands for strength, courage, pride, and respect’ is a statement of absurdity.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the Representative from the District of Columbia, states that Mr. Snyder “is a man who has shown sensibilities based on his own ethnic identity, [yet] who refuses to recognize the sensibilities of American Indians.”

Recently, in an interview with USA Today Sports, Mr. Snyder defiantly stated, “We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER – you can use caps.” Mr. Snyder’s statement is totally inconsistent with the NFL’s diversity policy, which states:

Diversity is critically important to the NFL. It is a cultural and organizational imperative about dignity, respect, inclusion and opportunity . . . The overall objective of the [NFL’s] diversity effort is to create a culturally progressive and socially reflective organization that represents, supports and celebrates diversity at all levels.

It is critically important that the NFL promote its Commitment to Diversity, and uphold its moral responsibility to disavow the usage of racial slurs. Just as important is the moral responsibility of the NFL’s 31 other football club owners to collectively have the necessary courage to stand up and speak out against the use of this derogatory term. Mr. Snyder, more than anyone else in the NFL, should display greater sensitivity and appreciation for a people who have been maligned and mistreated for hundreds of years.

Ms. Suzan Harjo, President of the Morning Star Institute – a national Native American rights organization – and a member of the Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee tribes, summed it up best when she stated: “[Redskins] is the worst thing in the English language you can be called if you are a native person.” This is not just a statement, but a direct invitation for Mr. Snyder and the NFL to do the right thing. I challenge Mr. Snyder to be reasonable, and to realize the harmful legacy that his franchise’s name perpetuates.

In an attempt to correct the long-standing usage of the term “redskins,” the bill H.R. 1278 entitled, “The Non-Disparagement of Native American Persons or Peoples in Trademark Registration Act of 2013” was introduced. This bill would cancel the federal registrations of trademarks using the word “redskin” in reference to Native Americans. The Trademark Act of 1946 – more commonly known as the Lanham Act – requires that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) not register any trademark that “[c]onsists of or comprises . . . matter which may disparage . . . persons, living or dead…or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” 15 U.S.C. §1502(a).

Native American tribes have a treaty, trust and special relationship with the United States. Because of the duty of care owed to the Native American people by the federal government, it is incumbent upon the federal government to ensure that the Lanham Act is strictly enforced in order to safeguard Indian tribes and citizens from racially disparaging federal trademarks.

Accordingly, the Patent and Trademark Office has rejected applications submitted by the Washington franchise for trademarks which proposed to use the term “redskins” – three times in 1996 and once in 2002. The PTO denied the applications on grounds that “redskins” is a racial slur that disparages Native Americans.

In 1992, seven prominent Native American leaders petitioned the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) to cancel the federal registrations for six trademarks using “redskins.” The TTAB in 1999 ruled that the term “redskins” may, in fact, disparage American Indians, and cancelled the registrations. On appeal, a federal court reversed the TTAB’s decision, holding that the petitioners waited too long after coming of age to file their petition. A new group of young Native Americans petitioned the TTAB to cancel the registrations of the offending trademarks in 2006. The TTAB held a hearing on March 7, 2013. A final decision is pending.

H.R. 1278 is supported by a number of major Native American organizations, including the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) – the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization serving tribal governments and communities. Mr. Jefferson Keel, a member of the Chikasaw Nation and President of NCAI, stated that our efforts as Members of Congress will hopefully accomplish “what Native American people, nations, and organizations have tried to do in the courts for almost twenty years – end the racist epithet that has served as the [name] of the Washington’s pro football franchise for far too long.”

The Native American Rights Fund (NARF) – the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations, and individuals nationwide – also supports the call to change the Washington franchise’s racist name. NARF recently issued a statement describing our efforts as “a clear signal that some [M]embers of Congress do not take anti-Native stereotyping and discrimination lightly. These Representatives now join Native American nations, organizations and people who have lost patience with the intransigence of the Washington pro football franchise in holding on to the indefensible – a racial epithet masquerading as a team name.”

Despite the Native American community’s best efforts before administrative agencies and the courts, the term “redskins” remains a federally registered trademark. It has been well over twenty years and this matter is still before the courts. This injustice is the result of negligence and a cavalier attitude demonstrated by an administrative agency charged with the responsibility of not allowing racist or derogatory terms to be registered as trademarks. Since the federal government made the mistake in registering the disparaging trademark, it is now up to Congress to correct it.

Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega has represented the territory of American Samoa in the United States Congress since 1989. Faleomavaega is a member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, and serves on the Subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs. Faleomavaega is also a member of the Congressional Native American Caucus.

http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2013/07/30/its-time-change-redskins-racist-name

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Before he left the Dallas Cowboys to come home again, Jon Kitna had one request of the two principals who run Lincoln High School:

Give me your worst students.

The other teachers told him to stop. This was last February and it was going to be hard enough to teach three algebra classes in the middle of a semester. He was two months gone from an NFL career that went for 16 years, after all. Yes, this was his old high school, the one where he was a star quarterback in the early 1990s, but didn’t the new football coach understand what he was getting into?

Didn’t he see the numbers? Didn’t he know that four of every five of the students were on free or reduced lunches? That finding a meal was more important than understanding negative integers? Inspiring the best students was going to be difficult enough. Save himself, they advised. Start slow. Make it easy.

Kitna shook his head. Easy wasn’t the point. At 6-foot-4 with a buzz cut and a body built for football, he fills the classroom doorways. He would not be intimidated. And how could they understand this was the only job he ever wanted – that his time in the NFL was a daily preparation for this moment? No, coming home was supposed to be as hard.

And so again he told the principals to have the other math teachers select the students they didn’t want – the ones who didn’t listen, who didn’t try, who didn’t care. He would take them all. The principals nodded. Lists were made, class rolls prepared. The new football coach was handed three dream teams of troublemakers. They wished him luck.

Only something happened in those three algebra classes, something no one could have imagined. The students who didn’t listen suddenly did. Those who never did work turned in assignments. And when the results of the math assessments came in, Kitna’s students were second best in the school. It wasn’t because their teacher was an NFL quarterback. Many of them didn’t have televisions at home. They had little idea who Jon Kitna was. No, this was something else. Something bigger. Something one of those two principals, Pat Erwin, considers in his office one recent day and finally calls: “The Kitna effect.”

He doesn’t have to be here, of course. Sixteen years as an NFL quarterback brought him more than $20 million. It gave him big homes and nice cars. It allowed his wife Jennifer and three children to never need again. When he walked away from the Cowboys after the 2011 season, he could have gone to the golf course or the broadcast booth or even one of those sprawling high schools with a giant stadium in a suburb of Dallas if he only wanted to coach.

“I don’t think that’s what my purpose was,” Kitna says. “This is my challenge. This is what I was meant to do.”

He is sitting at a teacher’s desk in the front of a classroom not long before his Algebra I class. Everything has changed in 20 years. Things seem worse now. There are so many more drugs. The poverty shocks him.

Yet people he knows from the old days say the school was more violent when he was a student. Gangs roamed the halls. He remembers the gangs but many of those kids were also his friends and they shielded him from what they were doing. Perhaps his memories are sanitized. Maybe because he was surrounded by wealth for so long the hardship here is all the more unsettling.

He sat with his team in a pregame study hall one fall day and told the players to close their books. Something was missing. What was it? He could sense they wanted to learn. He could see them working in school. They tried hard at football practice. And yet simple homework assignments went unfinished. Grades that had improved then mysteriously dropped. For every step forward there was a stumble.

“What is the disconnect?” he asked.

For several moments no one said anything. Then slowly the stories spilled out. Terrible stories. Heartbreaking stories. The players told of homes without parents. They said nobody in the house asked to see their homework. They talked of barely existing at all. They said the only place anyone seemed to care was at school. And they told him that even then he was the only one to whom they could relate.

“It was eye-opening,” Kitna says. “It was tearful to hear kids say: ‘My parents when I am doing my homework tell me to stop doing my homework and go sell drugs.’ Or to hear a kid say: ‘I don’t ever eat because I want my mom to eat and only one of us can eat.’ ”

For a moment Kitna is silent.

Then he stops and looks up wistfully.

“All that being said, I’m on a gold mine,” he continues. “This place is a freaking gold mine because these kids are super, uber-talented. Not just athletically. You’ve got kids who can sing and blow the pipes off of things. You see kids who can do acting and drama-type stuff and arts that are just amazing.

“People [in the NFL] said I got credited for being a great leader, they [said] ‘even as a backup people are drawn to you.’ And they’d say ‘why?’ Because I went here. It’s because I went here. I’m thoroughly convinced of that because if you go here you don’t just get to be one kind of person, you have to be able to adapt and intermix yourself into all different kinds of cultures and situations.”

A buzzer sounds. Time for class. The room begins to fill. The kids are laughing. A few say “hello.” One asks what they are going to work on that day. Kitna watches them and smiles. “I’m on a gold mine here,” he says again.

It takes a village to change a culture, and Kitna has filled his coaching staff with friends and associates he has known over the years. This includes former Oregon State player Casey Kjos, a cousin who he raised as a son, and Eric Boles, his teammate at Central Washington University who played briefly in the NFL. Jennifer and his brother’s wife take care of details like making meals for the team during training camp because they figure the players will otherwise not eat. Since the school had little money for things like uniforms and equipment they took over the booster club and website, and set up a 501(c)(3) and began soliciting donations.

To show his seriousness, Kitna spent $150,000 to fill the weight room with equipment as nice as that in any NFL practice facility. He had the walls painted and named it after his old Lincoln teammate and longtime NFL safety Lawyer Milloy. Soon others followed. Carson Palmer, a teammate in Cincinnati, bought two industrial washers for uniforms. Current Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo provided the money for new jerseys. Calvin Johnson, his old receiver in Detroit paid for new equipment as did Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Since the kids didn’t have their own spikes for practice, the Cowboys boxed up dozens of cleats. When Nike took over the NFL uniform contract in the spring, the Seahawks sold their now useless game pants to Lincoln at $1 a pair so the team could have practice uniforms.

Several times, Erwin, the co-principal, has walked into the school on Saturday mornings and found Kitna washing uniforms.

“I think what he is trying to do is see what can happen to kids in a high-poverty area when you put them in a world-class setting,” Erwin says.

But inspiring kids who come from nothing is not as easy as wearing Marshawn Lynch’s pants and Dez Bryant’s old cleats. For every moment of joy comes a day that makes no sense.

Not long after he arrived, Kitna took the football team to Seattle for a series of 7-on-7 drills at the University of Washington. When he sent notes to the parents, only three called to ask about the trip.

Then when the bus returned to Lincoln at 11:30 p.m., Kitna was stunned to discover not one parent or relative had come to meet them. He and the coaches split the players up and drove them home. It was 12:15 a.m. when Kitna dropped off the last of the players in his car. And as the door shut and the player waved good bye, Kitna wept.

“I could never fathom that my son would leave for school at 6:30 a.m. with no money for food and some coach I never met or know is going to take him to the University of Washington for 7-on-7 drills and I don’t even know what that means and then not have any transportation when he gets back,” he says. “That’s when it hit me how hard this was going to be.”

And yet he keeps pushing because this is all he knows to do, walking through the halls with a computer bag over his shoulder, nodding to kids, calling them: “Dude.”

“Jon does everything he has with his whole heart,” says Boles, who is one of his assistants. “I told him: ‘You are responsible to the kids but you are not responsible for them. You can’t control it, Jon.’ But his belief is: If they can make one decision a week or one decision a day that is better than the day before then you are making an impact.”

Or as the other co-principal, Greg Eisnaugle, says as he stands in the hall one day: “He just exudes positivism. He makes the kids feel they are worthy.

Then Eisnaugle pauses.

“Have you met Rayshaun Miller?” he asks.

On the dream team of troublemakers, Rayshaun Miller was a lottery pick. He rolled through his first year and a half at Lincoln tormenting teachers so much that many threw their hands up in frustration. The tales of his arrogance and disrespect filled the main office. Once Erwin found him in the hallway boasting of his 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash and how he would tear through opponents on the football field.

“How will we know, Rayshaun?” Erwin said. “You can’t stay eligible.”

But there is also something compelling about Miller. He is bright. While most teenagers find it difficult to connect with adults, he makes eye contact. His handshake is firm. He likes to talk. This is the student Kitna met when he arrived last February, not the one who drove the teachers mad. At the time Miller was failing pretty much everything. Kitna said he would pick him up at his house at 6:30 every morning and drive him to school where they would work on algebra before the students arrived. Later in the day, he was in Kitna’s class, which gave him more than two hours of math daily with the new coach.

His grades soared. The kid who was failing got A’s and B’s. The kid who mocked his teachers waved good morning. When other students fought, he broke them apart. Soon word came to the office of a new, different Rayshaun Miller. And everyone wondered just what had happened.

Miller stands in the weight room after school one day and says: “I got my act together.”

He was born in Sacramento, Calif., and was sent to live with his father in Tacoma when he was 6 to escape the violence of his old neighborhood. He hasn’t seen his mother or brother since. He says he carried the anger over this for a long time. It was Kitna, he says, who told him he couldn’t use his background as a reason for giving up.

“He taught me there is no excuse for not trying,” Miller says.

Then Miller starts to talk about his old self, the one who tried to fail. He tells a story of a time he mocked a student for getting an A in a class. He remembers calling the student “stupid.”

Now, in the weight room, Miller laughs.

“Can you believe that?” he says. “I called someone ‘stupid’ for getting an A.”

Football was a miracle for Kitna. Even he never imagined he’d be in the NFL. It took years to become the starting quarterback at Lincoln. Nobody was waiting with a scholarship when he graduated. His parents helped him pull the money together to go to Central Washington, an NAIA school halfway across the state, where he found himself at the bottom of a long list of quarterbacks. Eventually he became the starter. His senior year, Central won the NAIA national championship, which got him mild acclaim in Washington but did nothing to further his career.

Assuming he was done with football, Kitna finished his teaching degree and began pursuing the dream he and Jennifer talked so much about: teaching and coaching. Lincoln was actually looking for a head football coach. He applied but was turned down.

Then a few days later Dennis Erickson showed up on Central’s campus.

The Seahawks coach at the time was there to give a tryout to his nephew, Jamie Christian, who was one of Central’s receivers. The tryout was a family favor, yet what amazed Erickson was the quarterback whose throws looked like rockets zooming into Christian’s hands. The Seahawks offered Kitna a contract and a spot in their 1996 training camp. He made the practice squad and after the season was placed on the roster of the Barcelona Dragons of the World League. Barcelona won the league title on home turf. Kitna was MVP of the championship game and left the field to chants of “Keeetna! Keeetna! Keeetna!” He was anonymous no more.

He made Seattle’s roster in 1997 and became the team’s starting quarterback in 1998. In 2001 he went to Cincinnati, then to Detroit in 2006 where he threw for 4,000 yards two consecutive seasons, eventually landing in Dallas in 2009.

Yet while this became his football narrative, it was never the story he wanted to tell. Rather the one he repeats, offering to anyone who will listen, is more complicated. It starts with a young college student from Tacoma who understood little about who he was. He went to parties. He drank until he was drunk. He stole. Boles, who speaks to companies about their image, once told a group from 7-Eleven: “You guys can invoice Jon Kitna because he stole so much from you.”
Boles was going through a religious awakening at this time. And he talked to Kitna a lot about what he learned. One night Jennifer, who was Kitna’s girlfriend at the time, came home to find him in bed with another woman. In the midst of the ensuing argument, Boles’ words suddenly made sense. And what came from that night was a different Kitna. The drinking stopped along with the stealing and the partying. His expressions of faith were overt, manifesting itself in T-shirts with slogans like “God Athletic Department” or caps with crosses. His bookshelf filled with spiritual texts.

His purpose became clear. He would teach. He would go back into the cities, to the worst of neighborhoods and he would make children better. He would tell them about choices and respect and responsibility. He was going to change lives.

With Lincoln being a public school, faith is not a part of the lesson plan. Kitna understands this and seems to respect it. After all, he is teaching in a district where students come from all over the world and from a variety of religions. And don’t the lessons he is trying to teach apply to everyone regardless of belief?

“Character is an every day, all the time thing,” Kitna says. “It’s who you really are. It’s not what you turn on and off when you’re around a coach or at home with your parents.”

He has a philosophy that he took from a team chaplain in Detroit. He calls it “the four pillars of manhood,” with each represented by a letter that forms the acronym: “R.E.A.L.” as in: A R.E.A.L. man…

Rejects passivity
Empathizes with others
Accepts responsibility
Leads courageously

And while R.E.A.L. is gender specific and targeted first toward the Lincoln football players, Kitna believes it to be a message that can be embraced by all the students. Who doesn’t need to be reminded to show empathy or courage or take responsibility for mistakes? Virtues are virtues, whether they are taught by a preacher or a math teacher or a football coach.

“Win with grace, lose with dignity,” Kitna says.

He sighs when he hears the complaints about NFL players celebrating touchdowns and sacks – mocking the failures of the opponent on that particular play. If people want to change this, he says, the time to do so isn’t when the players are in the NFL. It’s too late then. You have to reach them when they are teenagers.

And the lessons are harsh. One day this fall Kitna was told of a football player who watched another student draw a derogatory picture of a classmate. The football player had nothing to do with the drawing but he laughed. Kitna had a meeting with the player, the teacher and the student who was the target of the drawing.

“Well you didn’t do anything to help the situation,” Kitna told the player. “You didn’t reject passivity.”

Then he suspended the player for two series in the upcoming game.

Later that week, a group of football players surrounded a group of girl volleyball players from a different school who had come to Lincoln for a match. Two of the players danced suggestively in front of the girls. When Kitna found out about it the next day, he gathered the team together.

“Who was there?” he asked.

Two players raised their hands.

“Who else was there?” he demanded.

Eventually five more players stood before him with hands raised. “You who did it, you are out a half,” Kitna said. “And you who didn’t do anything about it, you are out for two series.”

Months later, now, Kitna shakes his head. Lincoln lost its starting quarterback, a starting defensive lineman, starting center, a starting receiver and a starting linebacker for parts of that next game. The other team returned a punt for a touchdown, perhaps in part because special teams practice was canceled for the meeting about the volleyball incident. The replacement quarterback had a pass intercepted for a touchdown and Lincoln lost. It was a critical defeat in a 5-5 season.

“They got to feel the impact of losing a football game because of the decisions we make,” he says. “But the greater things was [that] the freshmen got to see it. ‘Coach doesn’t play, he really means this.’ ”

In the classroom a projection device turns on, the lights go dim and Kitna stands before his Algebra 1 class with a problem to solve. Behind him, on a screen, is a drawing of a yellow cab with the following question:

“A taxicab company charges a flat fee of $1.85 plus an additional .40 cents per quarter mile. A: Write a formula to find the total cost for cab fare. B: Use this formula to find the cost for one person to travel eight miles.”

The students unpack their bags, pull pencils from holders and take school-owned calculators from felt caddies that hang on the wall but already something is wrong. Kitna can sense it. Then it hits him: Almost none of them have been inside a taxicab. They are staring at him because they don’t understand the question.

Before the first X or fraction or set of parentheses can be scribbled on paper, Kitna must explain taxicabs. He shrugs. Teaching is making him a very patient man. Carefully, he explains the concept of a taxi meter.

He had to give up two of the algebra classes this fall because the demands of building the football program became too much. He replaced them with weight training which gives him more time with the football players. He thinks it’s important that they see him as much as possible.

But there is also a part of him that loves this class. And there are so many stories, like the one of the girl who barely spoke for the first few weeks who is now one of the best students. He can see the recognition. He can feel learning. This makes him happy. For, yes, he is sitting on a gold mine.

http://sports.yahoo.com/news/nfl–former-nfl-qb-jon-kitna-finds-%E2%80%98gold-mine%E2%80%99-at-a-school-where-other-teachers-only-saw-problems-194739063.html;_ylt=Ar6kvx3k_zQSjPSgERE96qY5nYcB;_ylu=X3oDMTRqMWdwbDRoBG1pdANMSVNUUyBNaXhlZCBMaXN0IEZQIEV4cGVydHMEcGtnAzIxOTE5NTcxLWE1YjgtM2ExMS04OGY2LTIzNWRmY2ZkMWM0YQRwb3MDMwRzZWMDTWVkaWFCTGlzdE1peGVkTFBDQVRlbXAEdmVyAzAwNDljNzIzLTRhYjQtMTFlMi1hZmJkLTNmOTY0NmQ5Y2ZmNw–;_ylg=X3oDMTFpNzk0NjhtBGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANob21lBHB0A3NlY3Rpb25z;_ylv=3

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.