pittsburgh steelers veteran cornerback william gay vividly remembers arriving at the hospital and not knowing why his family members were crying uncontrollably. gay was just seven years old, but he sensed there was something wrong.
gay soon learned his mother had been shot in the back three times. her assailant was gay's stepfather, who shot himself in the head, as the .38 caliber revolver landed between the bodies. sadly, he died instantly, while gay's mother, carolyn hall, pased five hours after being in the hospital.
although he grew up in a challenging tallahassee, florida housing project, gay was unaware of the problems at home between his mother and stepfather. there was no fighting or visible bruises on his mother. the painful stigma of domestic violence inherits a community-based, don't ask, don't tell policy - by default.
gay, 29, says, "i dealt with a lot of anger because i felt like, why me? i threw out that question a lot. i got to a point where i didn't care. i felt like no one cared about me. didn't care about school. i lashed out at people."
on march 14, 1992, gay lost his mother to domestic violence. gay was unequivocally shattered but his uncle, army veteran ronald hall, offered him guidance, direction and tough love. hall said, "william, you cannot blame the world for what is happening. in order for you to be a better person, you better let it go. you're going to end up in jail or dead. he took it to heart."
gay received a scholarship to the university of louisville before entering the national football league as a fifth-round draft pick for the steelers in 2007. just one year later, pittsburgh won the super bowl and gay was now part of a championship team.
in the spirit of humility, gay has worked at the women's center and shelter of greater pittsburgh for many years. he speaks to mothers about domestic abuse. "to hear it from someone who was a child whose mother was murdered really resonates," said shirl regan, chief executive officer at the shelter. "those talks are done off-camera. nobody sees that. that's on his time. he does that because it comes from his heart."
the nfl - and their embattled commissioner roger goodell - has zero credibility with past domestic violence policies. most players, among them jovonnie belcher, greg hardy, ray mcdonald, adrian peterson and ray rice have seen their arrests, charges and/or indictments handled either lightly, or without sanction. gay is in the unique position of helping players avoid violence against wives, partners or children.
many nfl players use pink cleats, towels and wristbands in october to raise breast cancer awareness. but gay faces a possible fine: he wore purple shoes in honor of domestic violence awareness month. he proudly bears a tattoo on his arm reminding him of his mother's tragic death. gay says, "even though she wasn't here, my mom molded me into the man i am today. i still pray to her all the time."
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.