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 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!


Mary Adair said...

What a great program! I think that this is a really important issue in American culture right now, that affects a lot of young people. I went to a boarding school that had some serious issues with hazing in boys dorms while I was a student there. It was very interesting to see the approach taken by the authority figures in school - the teachers, counselors and coaches - to try and get a message across to boys that violence against others to assert authority was not at all productive, just, or right. Being a member of the student body at the time, I was able to observe how the students reacted to the presentations and workshops throughout the year. The most effective ones were those implemented by the authority figures that they thought were "tough guys," especially older students who were strong enough to voice their opinions about the issue. Having football captains tell aspiring tough guys that you didn't have to hurt to prove your strength or worth went a long way. This program that you mentioned seems to me to be the right way to go - to have a symbolically strong and "tough" guy speak out against violence makes nonviolence seem tough. You really can't underestimate the power of street-cred! Kudos.

Brian Kesten said...

This is a great example of someone taking advantage of their position in the world to make a positive difference. As a professional football player, it is possible that Schlesinger knew first hand the exploits of his teammates. Football is certainly a violent sport and it can be difficult to learn to resolve disputes nonviolent when one uses unresolved conflict to motivate violent behavior on the football field (like I did). While it can be cathartic like hitting a punching bag or a pillow when we are angry or stressed, how do we cope when there isn't anything soft to punch?

I'm glad he is teaching young men to be comfortable with themselves and try to fight the root causes of gender violence, bullying, harassment and dating violence. The article shows he is tackling a range of issues, and learning some things himself. Great work!

GO JETS! the lions stand no chance in the Super Bowl 2009 against the J-E-T-S JETS! JETS! JETS!

Robert Wiese said...

This story is incredible, and the fact that I have not heard anything about it before says something about the media in America. I admit that I am an avid ESPN Sportscenter watcher - as I imagine are many of you. Nevertheless, this post was the first thing I had heard about Schlesinger's program. It is sad that every time I turn to ESPN, I am being barraged by stories of Pacman Jones shooting people in strip clubs, Barry Bonds being charged with perjury, or Floyd Mayweather's $500,000 gold chain necklace. This really makes you wonder why the media chooses so often to put the spotlight on the idiots of the sports world rather than true role models like Schlesinger.

Nicole Pedi said...

This is such a great story. I think it has a really powerful effect when celebritites promote such worthy causes. When we watched the Obama music video we saw the same effect. The idea of having a celebrity tell us something they are passionate about kind of forces you to take a second look at the issue. Oh, this famous person likes Obama.. I wonder why? Maybe I should take a second look at his policies... It's sad really at how influential celebrities can be, but hey, it works for good causes too, this story proves it!