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USF senior KJ Sails shaping son to help ‘change the world’

King Jeremiah Sails, who turns 3 in August, walked hand-in-hand with his dad at a recent unity walk.
USF football player KJ Sails holds the hand of 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 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 ]
Published Jun. 19, 2020
Updated Jun. 20, 2020

Perhaps no previous Father’s Day has lent itself to dialogue, quality time and visible expressions of love quite like this one.

National unrest lingers — and still percolates in some places — in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. Protests against police brutality and racial inequality, be they sparse or sprawling, represent a sobering backdrop as families congregate Sunday.

So how will these ongoing events shape conversations between fathers and their kids? For answers, we reached out to a number of our sports landscape’s prominent African-American dads: What do they consider the biggest takeaway from this highly teachable moment? And what will true progress in the quest for racial equality look like in the future?

We begin with 23-year-old USF senior cornerback KJ Sails, who organized a unity walk two Saturdays ago in downtown Tampa in the name of racial equality and harmony. Walking hand-in-hand with Sails was his 2-year-old son, King Jeremiah Sails.

KJ Sails weeps while his coach, USF football's Jeff Scott, speaks during the recent Unity Walk in Tampa.
KJ Sails weeps while his coach, USF football's Jeff Scott, speaks during the recent Unity Walk in Tampa. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

When King is old enough to comprehend what transpired on that rainy afternoon, his father knows what he’ll say to him.

“We’re fighting for equality right now, so … I’ll start off by telling him our history and what took place in Tampa, where we’re from and how that came about,” Sails said.

Related: 'This is the generation to make change,' says USF Bulls cornerback KJ Sails

“I will tell him that he was front-line of something that was a part of history. At a young age, he probably didn’t understand what he was walking for, but when he gets older, I will explain to him that you were a part of history, you helped change history. You helped change the world.

“We are fighting for equality, we are fighting for what’s right, and we’re doing it the right way. We’re fighting for your future friends and the friends after that, and you were a part of that, you helped change that. That’s what I will tell him, to always walk as a leader because that’s who you are. You are a leader, you are a young king.

“That’s part of the reason why we named him King, because he is considered a king and he is a leader in our community.”

King Sails, 2, holds hands with mother Kiana Campbell and father KJ Sails. King was named so he can be "a leader in our community," his dad says.
King Sails, 2, holds hands with mother Kiana Campbell and father KJ Sails. King was named so he can be "a leader in our community," his dad says. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Special to the Times ]

• • •

Coverage of local and national protests from the Tampa Bay Times

HOW TO SUPPORT: Whether you’re protesting or staying inside, here are ways to educate yourself and support black-owned businesses.

WHAT PROTESTERS WANT: Protesters explain what changes would make them feel like the movement is successful.

WHAT ARE NON-LETHAL AND LESS-LETHAL WEAPONS? A guide to what’s used in local and national protests.

WHAT ARE ARRESTED PROTESTERS CHARGED WITH? About half the charges filed have included unlawful assembly.

CAN YOU BE FIRED FOR PROTESTING? In Florida, you can. Learn more.

HEADING TO A PROTEST? How to protect eyes from teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.