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National discourse on race hits home for these Tampa Bay fathers, sports figures

These are the conversations African American players and coaches, from Gary Sheffield to Gerald McCoy to Tony Dungy to Renaldo Garcia, are having with their children.
Former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield pals around with son Jaden, 17, between Florida Heat games at the Helen S. Howarth Community Park in Pinellas Park recently.
Former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield pals around with son Jaden, 17, between Florida Heat games at the Helen S. Howarth Community Park in Pinellas Park recently. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]
Published Jun. 21, 2020

They are athletes. They are coaches. They are role models. They are fathers.

They are angry. They are tired. They are scared. They are hopeful.

This Father’s Day, we reached out to a number of the most prominent African American dads in the Tampa Bay area sports landscape to talk about the ongoing quest for racial equality.

In their words:

KJ Sails

USF football player KJ Sails holds the hand of his 2-year-old son, King, during a recent unity walk that he organized in Tampa. Also pictured, from left: Kiana Campbell and daughter, Heaven Campbell, 6; and USF football coach Jeff Scott, far right.
USF football player KJ Sails holds the hand of his 2-year-old son, King, during a recent unity walk that he organized in Tampa. Also pictured, from left: Kiana Campbell and daughter, Heaven Campbell, 6; and USF football coach Jeff Scott, far right. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

“When (my son) gets older, I will explain to him that you were a part of history, you helped change history. You helped change the world.” Read more.

Tony Dungy

Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy with his wife Lauren and nine of their children. Front row: Jaden, Justin, Jaela, Jason, Jalen. Back row: Tiara, Eric, Jade, Jordan, Lauren, Tony.
Former Buccaneers and Colts coach Tony Dungy with his wife Lauren and nine of their children. Front row: Jaden, Justin, Jaela, Jason, Jalen. Back row: Tiara, Eric, Jade, Jordan, Lauren, Tony. [ Courtesy of Tony Dungy ]

“My dad used to say we should do what we can to make things a little bit better for everyone. Hopefully, along the way, some hearts can change. Because I’m afraid that’s what it’s going to take.” Read more.

Titus O’Neil

WWE superstar Titus O’Neil, 43, center, poses with sons Titus, 13, left, and TJ, 16.
WWE superstar Titus O’Neil, 43, center, poses with sons Titus, 13, left, and TJ, 16. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]

“My sons are more prepared to understand (racial inequality) more, even though they don’t like it, and they never have liked it. They don’t like anybody being treated bad, whether they’re black, white, lesbian, gay or straight.” Read more.

Gerald McCoy

As a father of three sons and two daughters, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gerald McCoy says he tells his children, "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."
As a father of three sons and two daughters, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gerald McCoy says he tells his children, "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." [ Courtesy of Gerald and Ebony McCoy ]

“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.” Read more.

Gary Sheffield

Former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield, kneeling, poses for a family portrait at the Helen S. Howarth Community Park in Pinellas Park last weekend. From left, Jaden, 17; wife DeLeon; Noah, 14; Christian, 12 and Garrett, 21.
Former Major League Baseball star Gary Sheffield, kneeling, poses for a family portrait at the Helen S. Howarth Community Park in Pinellas Park last weekend. From left, Jaden, 17; wife DeLeon; Noah, 14; Christian, 12 and Garrett, 21. [ BOYZELL HOSEY | Times ]

“I have belief. I ain’t in no ‘hope’ business. I believe. I believe we can do better. I believe we will do better.” Read more.

Renaldo Garcia

Berkeley Prep boys basketball coach Renaldo Garcia with sons Rico (13) and RJ (17).
Berkeley Prep boys basketball coach Renaldo Garcia with sons Rico (13) and RJ (17). [ Courtesy of Renaldo Garcia ]

“I told my boys, despite these dark days that I remain hopeful because I see black and white protesters standing arm in arm and saying, in fact acknowledging, that black folks have been gaslighted for too long.” Read more.

Frantz Jean

Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending coach Frantz Jean.
Tampa Bay Lightning goaltending coach Frantz Jean. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

“The big conversation I’ve always had with my son, it was always about inclusion. ... It’s good to have friends from all sorts of races and all sorts of backgrounds and be as inclusive as you can.” Read more.

Noah Lewis Jr.

Noah Lewis Jr., an assistant football coach at Tampa Bay Tech, with son Noah III, daughter Aubrey and girlfriend Kinsley Goldberg.
Noah Lewis Jr., an assistant football coach at Tampa Bay Tech, with son Noah III, daughter Aubrey and girlfriend Kinsley Goldberg. [ | Courtesy of Noah Lewis Jr. ]

“Given the time that we live in, the effort that it’s going to take to break a system, it almost seems so insurmountable at times. I don’t say that in a defeated way or in a way that I don’t think it’s possible.” Read more.

Shaquil Barrett

Tampa Bay Buccaneer Shaquil Barrett with wife  Jordanna and children Aaliyah, 5, Shaquil Jr., 8, and Braylon, 7.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer Shaquil Barrett with wife Jordanna and children Aaliyah, 5, Shaquil Jr., 8, and Braylon, 7. [ Courtesy of Shaquil Barrett ]

“I just want to give my kids the opportunity to have a great education to be able to pursue whatever their dreams are and just opening their opportunities and trying to change the generation.” Read more.

Anthony Lawrence

Lakewood High School basketball coach Anthony Lawrence Sr., 51, (center) poses with his daughter Taylor Lawrence, 26, and son Anthony Lawrence II, 23.
Lakewood High School basketball coach Anthony Lawrence Sr., 51, (center) poses with his daughter Taylor Lawrence, 26, and son Anthony Lawrence II, 23. [ JOHN PENDYGRAFT | Times ]

“You think about your children. My children. And then when I see something happen in the news where these guys get shot, I’m thinking about that’s somebody’s child. There’s a father that is devastated because that child is killed.” Read more.