Friday, February 15, 2008
The Detroit Lions & Nonviolence
As a relentlessly faithful Detroit Lions fan, this article that I happened to see a link for on ESPN.com caught my eye: Ex-fullback embraces nonviolence. Here's the gist of it: Cory Schlesinger had been a great fullback for the Lions until they didn't re-sign him last season, so now that he's retired, he has started a program within HAVEN (Help Against Violent Encounters Now), an organization in Metro Detroit that focuses particularly on combatting domestic abuse and sexual assault. His program, MVP (Mentors in Violence Prevention), reaches out primarily to young athletes, and is designed "to educate and bring about awareness of issues of gender violence, harassment, dating violence and bullying," as well as "empowering them to confront an abusive peer" without violence.
This is an especially interesting choice for Schlesinger, who was known for his especially forceful blocking style (head-first, breaking over a dozen facemasks in an average season!) But this is the reason I really enjoyed the article. It seems like in society, male athletes especially have to prove their masculinity and be overly aggressive and violent, not just in sports but in their day-to-day interactions as well. So to have someone like Cory Schlesinger telling these young athletes in their formative years that being violent isn't necessary off the field sends a very strong message. Harrassment and dating violence usually stems from males trying to exert control and dominance, attitudes which can stem from being on a competitive sports team, where aggression and dominance are necessary to win games. However, Schlesinger shows these kids that success on the field and respect off the field can go hand-in-hand.
This article was a really great illustration of the fact that you don't have to be a world-renowned activist like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King to teach the principles of nonviolence. Using your own unique experiences, you can advocate for nonviolence in the communities you can relate to most, and where you can have the biggest impact. While Schlesinger does not have the discipline of Gandhi or the oratorical skills of King, he can directly affect kids' lives though his love of football.
GO LIONS!! Superbowl 2009 here we come!