So much of what we end up hearing about players, current or former, is when things go wrong, whether it’s something they’ve done wrong or something is done wrong to them, or if things simply are not going well. This is simply because these are the stories that attract more attention than when somebody does some sort of charity work.
While the former obviously has to be covered to some degree, because it’s news, I like to bring up some of the latter here and there as well, so that’s why I’m writing about the latest recipient of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Social Justice Grant Program. It’s all part of a relatively recent NFL-wide Inspire Change platform in which the league’s constituent teams work to fund select social justice programs of their approval, often tied locally.
Among the latest recipients is very local. It’s Mel Blount’s own Youth Home initiative, which he has been involved in since 1983. The first Youth Home was established in Georgia. Amazingly, when he tried to set one up in Pennsylvania in 1989, it was met with protests from…the Ku Klux Klan. Crosses were burnt. Shots were fired. The home was built.
Blount’s program primarily works with young people who are disadvantaged and helps them along the way. You may recall that one such individual, C.J. Goodwin, even ended up on the Steelers’ practice squad one year. He later went on to play in a Super Bowl with the Atlanta Falcons.
“It’s a tremendous honor first for the Steelers to think of us like this, the players and the team”, Blount told the team’s website. “The other thing is the help it provides for the kids. It gives ability for us to go out and do things for the kids. We buy a lot of things for the kids, from back to school, to Christmas, and so forth. It’s a tremendous help. Even more importantly it shows how strong the Steelers family is”.
I’d like to take this time to remind those who need to be reminded that most NFL players who have been in the league for a few years have some sort of non-profit charity that they get involved with, while others simply donate their time to outside organizations about which they are passionate. They do a lot more good directly in their own communities than most of us do, including myself.
“The money is important”, Blount acknowledged about the realities of running a charity. “You need that. It’s a necessary vehicle to do the work that we need to do. But the players giving their time and themselves, and their presence among kids, has a tremendous influence on the young people. I would always take the time and presence because of what it means to our young people”.
Anybody reading this surely already knows this, but Blount is one of the most respected members of Steelers history. A dominant cornerback of the 1970s whose play spurred a rule change, he was a five-time Pro Bowler, a Defensive Player of the Year, and is a Hall of Famer, who regularly maintains his presence within the organization.
It’s only fitting that the players, many of whom have worked directly with him and his charity, chose his Youth Home as one of the recipients for the team’s donations.