This Father’s Day, we reached out to a number of our sports landscape’s most prominent African-American dads to talk about the ongoing quest for racial equality. Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Former Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who signed with the Cowboys this offseason, made six Pro Bowls with Tampa Bay, and he and his family still call this area home. McCoy and wife Ebony have five children — three boys and two girls. The oldest, Marcellus Crutchfield, 18, is a former two-sport star at Tampa Catholic who is heading to his father’s alma mater, Oklahoma, where he will play football. The McCoy family also includes Nevaeh, 14, twins Germany and Gerald III, 5, and Mars, 1.
“There’s no love as strong as you can find from a mother, however, even with the most love that a mother gives, what’s always the first thing they say if a person has issues? Where’s his dad? Little boys, they need a man’s guidance. Girls, they need a man’s love. So as a father, my kid’s future is dependent on the type of father I am. So it’s everything to me. Nothing else matters really if I’m not the right type of father.
“In today’s times and climate, everybody raises their children differently, but I think what gets misunderstood and what people don’t know is the types of conversations as an African-American man you have to have with your sons, the love you have to show your daughters. I’m going to be honest with you, I already tell my kids, ‘You’re already behind the eight-ball. You’re already going to be looked at as second. You already have an extra mile you have to run. You don’t have the same opportunities as everyone else.’ And whether people want to hear it or not, that’s reality. That’s America. When you’re African-American, you’re already looked at as one, you’re the minority, and two, you’re second best. That’s how it goes. It’s our job to make sure they understand they’re not second best. We’re all created equal, and the best man/woman wins. But since we know it’s not equal, I have to push my kids twice as hard. I have to make sure they’re prepared for biases and prepared for racism and prepared for prejudice.
“This is the type of conversation I have to have with my son that a white father may not have to have with his son. Ain’t no may not, they don’t have to have with their son. I’ve been blessed to be put in a situation where I’m able to live in a certain area, my kids go to certain schools. I would tell my son, this is what you have to do. If you go to a party and a fight breaks out or something negative happens, you get out of there, but I don’t want you to try to walk home, I don’t want you to walk for long. This is what you have to do because you’re a black kid walking through an upscale neighborhood. If the police drive by, you think they’re just going to keep going? Absolutely not. So what I have to tell my son is when you leave that party, don’t walk up the street, you find the nearest place where you can go inside with lights and cameras, and you wait until someone comes to get you. Because you being a black kid walking up the street, the police see you and they’re going to assume the worst.
“I tell my sons this world will kill you. So before I let you disrespect me, I’m going to handle it. I’m not going to let you disrespect me, because if you disrespect me, you’re going to disrespect them. The difference is I love you, the world don’t love you. They’re killing us left and right. You think they care if my name is McCoy? They don’t care.
“Don’t be afraid to have these conversations. It’s going to take everybody to create this change. It’s not going to happen overnight. Every parent brings their kids into this world and wants their children to be better than them. So us as adults, we just want the next generation to be better than us. Slowly but surely, I think people are beginning to wake up and see what’s really going on. But it’s going to take everybody, every race, everybody. Stop spreading so much hate. There’s got to be one love, more love spread, for the next man.”