NFL, United Way unveil “Character Playbook” for kids

Chicago Sun-Times –  04/28/2016, 04:16pm 

It sometimes seems that NFL players need their own “Character Playbook” to clean up incidents of domestic violence, drunken driving, drug and gun use and other brushes with the law. 

Now, they’ve got one for kids. 

Hours before the 2016 NFL Draft kicked off in Chicago, NFL players and prospects joined Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Commissioner Roger Goodell at Ariel Community Academy Thursday to help launch a new digital learning program sponsored by the NFL and the United Way. 

The Character Playbook scheduled to debut in at least fifteen Chicago area schools is tailor-made to teach tech-savvy students who rely heavily on social media how to get along with each other and maintain healthy inter-personal relationships.

Developed by EverFi, the digital learning initiative in a comic book-style format was described as using “true-to-life scenarios that include bystander intervention strategies and positive relationship examples.” 

It’s specifically designed to help students through the sometimes difficult middle school years, when cliques and biases develop and fast early friendships can sometimes end abruptly and hurtfully. 

Goodell was harshly criticized for suspending running back Ray Rice for just two games for cold-cocking his fiancée in an elevator, only to bar the former Baltimore Ravens running back indefinitely after video of the ugly incident was made public. 

On Thursday, Goodell urged Ariel students to use the NFL’s top prospects as a shining example.

 “These guys didn’t just get here on their talent. They got here on their hard work, their desire, their determination. They wanted to be great NFL players, but more importantly great men, and they are. And I’m proud of all of our players. They do great things in their community,” Goodell said. 

“It’s not just that they play great football. It’s that they know what discipline is. They know what working hard is all about. They know how to work together as a team. And those are the things we’re so proud to be able to share with you through our partnership with United Way. To be able to find ways to teach you all at this young age how to interact with each other. How to use character and values in your relationships with everybody—whether it’s your fellow students or whether it’s at home with your family or whether it’s strangers you meet on the street.” 

Former Bears wide receiver Rashied Davis talked about the pitfalls of social media for professional athletes in a way that holds a valuable lesson for students..

Watch what you say on Facebook and Twitter. If you lash out in anger, you could make a bad situation worse.

“If you don’t like a story that was written about you, you have an opportunity to sort of correct that narrative. But, it can be a double-edged sword. You can correct that narrative in a positive way or you can correct that narrative in a way that makes you look even worse. You can also create a narrative that wasn’t even there and get yourself in a whole lot of trouble by tweeting or Facebooking or Snapchatting before thinking,” Davis said. 

“If you’re emotional after a game and someone asks you a tough question — say you throw a pick that costs you the game. You’re young. You’re p—– off. Everybody gets p—–. How do you respond to that at the time? If you go out and tweet out of anger, you’re most likely to make a huge mistake and that tweet is going to get you in a lot of trouble.”

North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz said he’s well aware of the responsibility that comes with being a No. 1 or 2 pick in the NFL draft. 

“We’re all given a platform to reach kids and be a role model. And all of us now are stepping onto an even bigger platform. It’s really just how you handle yourself, how you can represent yourself, represent your family, where you’re from,” Wentz said.

“It’s doing the right things in the community. It’s saying the right things. It’s staying out of trouble. It’s handling yourself in a professional way. That’s how I, and I’m sure the rest of these guys, would say they’re gonna hopefully make a positive impact on the youth of America.” 

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