The last few days of coverage around the death and tragedy of Will Smith have brought up a lot of emotions from players, the city of New Orleans and the national media. Let me say that I am glad these issues around violence are getting attention, incredibly sad for the reason. But, one thing that I am discouraged by is that some of the narrative is just plain FALSE and VERY FALSE.
The lack of fact-checking and really doing deep-down research on what you're reporting or even what your interviewees are speaking is alarming and I'm not a trained journalist. I am 100% behind athletes being advocates for causes, but if you are going to use your platform to stand up for something, go on several national media outlets, then do your homework please. At least for the sake of getting the so-desperately-needed attention around social issues.
Here's what happened, and let me preface this by saying that I do not know Tyrann Mathieu personally, but he seems like a wonderful young man and at the core, I am so glad he is speaking out and mad as hell about the murder of former New Orleans Saint (and a former client of mine) Will Smith.
Tyrann went on a national radio show with Mike Hill and Kirk Morrison to talk about Will, New Orleans and his disgust over the violence in New Orleans. All totally understandable. HERE is the link to the interview if you want to catch it. It was emotional and compelling and wonderful and so much of what he was saying was true with the uptick in crime and the city at the brink of a racial and class divide with some numbers worse than pre-Katrina.
Except he was not factually correct when he mentioned that New Orleans isn't doing anything to help the youth of the community. And my head almost exploded because he missed a huge opportunity to create awareness and support for some very important social programs going on. They are not perfect, but there is a HUGE effort going on that's getting no attention.
So here they are:
NOLA for Life - the city's 36 initiative comprehensive program to reduce crime and homicide. One of the initiatives is called Midnight Basketball where they provide basketball leagues between 8pm to 12am for young men in underprivileged areas around NOLA (I did a short film about it...so I know all about it).
LAUREUS USA + Mercedes Benz - has a $10M investment in youth sports programs in NOLA that gets no coverage at all. They have a #SportForGood weekend every year around the NFL opening weekend
Please, if you are going to cover and advocate for social issues in sports using sports media, platforms, athlete voices and bringing subjects to the forefront of conversation, make sure you have your facts straight so you can truly create social change and have a strong call-to-action.
Mike Hill asked "what can we do?" Tyrann didn't have answer, but if he just knew about these programs, he could have so easily said: "Get out there and support these organizations. Let everyone you know about them and bring more attention to help our city and children so these tragedies don't happen."