Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Off the Grid(Iron): Eagles Desean Jackson makes his biggest play yet

This story hits close to home, literally. Nadin Kourny who goes to school in Upper Darby, Pa, a 20 minute car ride from where I spent my formative years had been bullied on a regular basis since moving from Minnesota with his mother and sister. It was YouTube that documented the tale. I have been a harsh critique of social media outlets like facebook and twitter for allowing people to remain on these sites after they virally harass another person. I had generalized social media as the downfall of our society. Only 24-years-old and I pined for the days of real social interaction, poking someone as a literal finger to flesh, rather than a click of the mouse. Nonsensical tweets and irrelevant facebook statuses had me on the brink of committing social network suicide. What could be the positives of a world dominated by adding friends instead of actually making them?

The story of 13 year old Nadin Khoury completely opened my eyes. Bullying happens in thousands of high schools in the U.S. everyday, most never reported, a blip on the proverbial radar screen. Nadin Khoury's story started out similar to most kids who are bullied in the eighth grade. Coming from Minnesota, to Philadelphia, Nadin quickly became a target simply for being new. I was lucky growing up to never have had to move to any other school district, let alone another state. I do know people who have. The kids who thought their roots were deeply planted in the soil, just to get them abruptly pulled out from under them. For a thirteen year old, this transition can't be an easy one.

Upon Nadin's arrival at his new school, the verbal abuse began. Classmates made fun of Nadin's Liberian born mother, calling her names and talking about her physical appearance. It's when Nadin told the boys to stop, that the beatings began. The seven bullies self-proclaimed as the "wolfpack" pushed and tossed him down a hill, along with tying him up to a tree. When Nadin rose up and fought one of them back, the beatings got more severe. Witnesses walking by the school never reported it and teachers never muttered a word. It was social media that brought the story to light. One of the seven bullies captured the Jan.11 beatings and posted it on YouTube changing everything. A decade ago, with no YouTube, the "wolfpack" would have continued their attacks, hidden in plain sight.

It wasn't long before the Philadelphia Inquirer caught wind of the video and wrote a piece about it. The piece then bounced to the "View" and eventually the Eagles had landed, the Philadelphia Eagles that is. Their biggest weapon, Desean Jackson found out about Nadin and flew from LA to NYC to do the View and meet his biggest fan. Desean didn't come alone. He brought reinforcements; 300 pound reinforcements in guard Todd Herremans and center Jamaal Jackson. The shot of Desean Jackson putting his arm around Nadin was priceless. As hard as it is to believe, I don't know if the "View" could get anymore emotional than that.

At that moment sports became real life's saving grace. Desean embraced Nadin as he would his own brother stating simply, "your not alone anymore, we got your back." What might seem like a simple statement will change Nadin's life forever. No longer will he have to walk alone, his support is real. Desean not only gave him Eagles tickets, 76ers tickets, jerseys, and T-shirts, but most importantly his cell phone number. Desean set an important example and message for other famous athletes. Like Uncle Ben said to Spiderman, "with great power, come great responsibility".

Jackson took it upon himself to use his celebrity for something great. He showed that the power and reach of an athlete can not be something wasted or simply disregarded. He sent a message that will reverberate through the NFL and all sports landscapes of how to use their famous names to help others. Jackson has started a non-profit program called Desean Jackson against bullying. This was a message from one of the NFL's most explosive players that an Eagle beats a wolf any day of the week.

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