After Further Review … On May 2, 2009, the game of football lost a great player in Jack Kemp, when he succumbed to cancer. Throughout his football playing days at Fairfax High School and Occidental College (both in Los Angeles), to the newly-founded American Football League (1960) with the LA/SD Chargers, and then to the Buffalo Bills, where he quarterbacked the Bills to AFC Championships in 1964 and 1965, Jack was a leader.
Much more than just an All-Pro Quarterback, Jack was a Statesman. He served as a Congressman for 18 years, representing Western New York; was appointed HUD Secretary by President G.H.W. Bush, and was the Republican Vice Presidential nominee as Bob Dole’s running mate in 1988. However, Kemp accomplished much more than those titles indicate.
Jack was a personal friend as well as an NFL colleague, so when you read the following story (published in Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul), you will see the admiration so many of us had for his leadership:
In 1961, when he was quarterback and captain of the San Diego Chargers, they were scheduled to play the Oilers in Houston for the AFC Championships. Traditionally, the night before the game, Coach Sid Gilman, took the entire team to a movie. Shortly after Jack sat down in the theatre, he noticed that Paul Lowe, Ernie Wright, Ernie Ladd and Charlie McNeil, all African-Americans, were missing. Jack asked around and discovered they had been told to sit in the “blacks only” balcony. When he reported this to coach Gilman, Jack insisted they leave. And so they did — walking out as a team in a silent, powerful demonstration of their belief in equality. Jack believed they were a T.E.A.M. both on and off the field.
Of even more impact was when Kemp was to play in the 1965 AFC All-Star game in New Orleans, only to find that his black teammates were denied taxi and restaurant service. Captain Kemp led a discussion to boycott New Orleans with the result of moving that All-Star game to another city. The first boycott of a city by any professional sports team! Jack often said, “We don’t tolerate bigotry on the field and it has no place off the field as well.”
Being elected to the U.S. Congress for 9 consecutive terms is just one of Kemp’s many accomplishments. However, he was prepared for it when he said, “Pro football gave me a good sense of perspective to enter politics. I have already been booed, cheered, cut, sold, traded and hung in effigy.” I will miss Jack Kemp.
Will you step up and do something for others as Jack Kemp did?
For more information about Jim Tunney, please visit his website:
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