HBCU Hall of Fame Players Honored at Super Bowl
Elite NFL players who graduated from a historically Black college or university, and made history when going pro, were recognized.
The National Football League (NFL) honored Pro Football Hall of Fame players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) before the start of Sunday's Super Bowl LI battle between the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, who won in overtime, 34-28.
Following an almost year-long partnership between the Black College Football Hall of Fame (BCFHOF) and the Pro Football Hall of Fame (PFHOF), the NFL "reached out with the great concept of shining a light on the Historically Black Colleges and Universities by introducing those HBCUs Gold Jackets at Super Bowl LI," PFHOF President and CEO Dave Baker said in a statement.
Of the 303 members of the PFHOF, 29 attended HBCUs. Grambling State University President Rick Gallot said in an interview that the amount of hall of famers that graduated from HBCUs highlights "the importance of HBCUs and how we have played a significant role in producing some of the greatest players to ever put on a helmet and shoulder pads."
Atlanta Falcons team members who played in Sunday's Super Bowl, Deji Olatoye (A&T State University) and Eric Weems (Bethune Cookman University), attended HBCUs as well.
Doug Williams, a graduate of Grambling State and MVP of Super Bowl XXII, was the narrator of a video that preceded the ceremony.
"There was a time when we judged football players by the color of their skin, before the content of their character," Williams said.
"Some [attended HBCUs] by choice, many by necessity … the honor of their deeds opened the nation to racial equality."
View the NFL's video of the ceremony
Pro Football Hall of Famers who attended HBCUs
Lem Barney, Jackson State; Elvin Bethea, North Carolina A&T; Mel Blount, Southern University; the late Roosevelt Brown, Morgan State; Willie Brown, Grambling State; the late Buck Buchanan, Grambling State; Harry Carson, South Carolina State; Willie Davis, Grambling State; Richard Dent, Tennessee State; the late Bob Hayes, Florida A&M; Claude Humphrey, Tennessee State; the late Len Ford, Morgan State; Bob Hayes, Florida A&M; Ken Houston, Prairie View A&M; Charlie Joiner, Grambling State; the late Deacon Jones, Mississippi Valley State; Leroy Kelly, Morgan State; Willie Lanier, Morgan State; Larry Little, Bethune Cookman; the late Walter Payton, Jackson State; Jerry Rice, Mississippi Valley State; Shannon Sharpe, Savannah State; Art Shell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore; Jackie Slater, Jackson State; John Stallworth, Alabama A&M; Michael Strahan, Texas Southern; Emmitt Thomas, Bishop; Aeneas Williams, Southern University; and Rayfield Wright, Fort Valley State.
The BCFHOF is now part of the new Johnson Controls Hall of Fame Village in Canton, Ohio, adding to the history and association of HBCUs and their players' influence on the game.
Many responded to the segment on social media.
Actor LeVar Burton, who had an iconic role in the TV miniseries "Roots," tweeted:
— LeVar Burton (@levarburton) February 5, 2017
Other Twitter users agreed:
— Clark Delon (@clark_delon) February 5, 2017
I truly appreciated the HBCU segment #SuperBowl
— JS (@JetSetHer) February 5, 2017
— David White (@dewjr87) February 5, 2017
HBCUs have produced both athletic talent and academic talent. The institutions make up just 3 percent of colleges and universities in the United States yet produce 27 percent of Black students with bachelor's degrees in STEM fields, according to U.S. Department of Education (DOE) data.
Full transcript of President Donald Trump's Black History Month speech
On the campaign trail and in his first two weeks of office, President Donald Trump has not disclosed, publicly, policy positions on HBCUs. Trump hosted a "listening session" on Wednesday for his African American supporters and administration members, which included questionable Frederick Douglass comments. TheGrio.com reported on Sunday that a group of Republican leaders plan to meet with heads of HBCUs this month to discuss ways to advance the institutions.
Celebrities are seeking out ways to fight the mental health stigma within the Black community.
Studies show Black men are particularly concerned about the stigma of mental illness, and apprehensive about seeking help.
Wizdom Powell, PhD, MPH, director of the Health Disparities Institute at University of Connecticut Health and associate professor of psychiatry, said that men of color are generally discouraged from seeking any kind of help, including help with mental health issues.
But some brave men in the very public eye, have decided to tackle the issue hoping to change the way the Black community views getting help.
Earlier this month, Chance the Rapper donated $1 million to help improve mental health services in Chicago. Six mental health providers in Cook County will each get $100,000 grants, and SocialWorks is starting an initiative called "My State of Mind" to help connect people with treatment.
NFL player Brandon Marshall, who struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, started a nonprofit Project 375.org to help eradicate stigma, increase awareness and improve training and care for youth. He wrote a powerful essay called "The Stigma," last year, where he was candid with his own battles and some of his coping mechanisms that included meditation and journaling.
The conversations around health are happening in other ways, in interviews, on albums, online and on screen.
Jay-Z has come out in interviews to talk about how the experience of therapy helped him grow as a man, overcoming situations, which he describes in his lyrics.
On his album "4:44," he released a mini documentary "Footnotes for MaNyfaCedGod," where he gathered a group of Black men to talk candidly about therapy, self-care, and mental health awareness.
He also advocated for therapy at younger ages and in schools.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson posted about his mother's suicide attempt on social media and went on "Oprah's Master Class" on OWN to discuss his own depression and how important it is to know that you are not alone in your struggles.
Rapper Kid Cudi, in posting about and seeking help for his anxiety struggles back in 2016, inspired users on social media to start the #YouGoodMan hashtag, which became a place for Black men to share knowledge and their stories with support.
Primetime TV shows are breaking the silence in the Black community as well.
Sterling K. Brown star of "This Is Us," Romany Malco Jr. of "A Million Little Things," and Kendrick Sampson and Issa Rae of "Insecure" all struggle on screen with issues and survive.
These actors are tackling conversations around getting help for depression, suicide ideation, panic attacks, and trauma — many issues that plague the Black community based on everyday living experiences.
And talking about it helps.
Marcus and Markeiff Morris, twin brothers and NBA players talked to ESPN about their struggles with depression and trauma from growing up in a violent neighborhood. Marcus Morris, who shared their story, encouraged others, "If you have depression, you should be trying to get rid of it instead of bottling it up and letting it weigh on you and weigh on you and weigh on you."
Markeiff, initially agreed to speak about his illness, but bowed out, possibly a sign that he's not quite ready. There are many men like him.
Hopefully, the more men that come forward to advocate and share, the more others will feel empowered to do the same.
Reader Question: Why do you think Black men struggle to speak openly about their how stress impacts their mental health?
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