Haitian NFL Players Are Angered, Hurt But Not Surprised By Trump’s Disparaging Remarks About Their Native Country

QUICKLY

  • The President called the country of their origin a shithole. They know it as a beautiful if beleaguered island from which hard-working, uncomplaining immigrants come to the U.S. to build on the American dream
  • ‘We are some of the strongest people on earth. To win our independence and help other Caribbean islands get their freedom? Dealing with hurricanes and earthquakes. It shows our grit.’
  • ‘There are amazing Haitians in America who are assets to this country, who are helping both countries with hard work and charity.’
  • ‘It hurts to be judged by ignorance.’
  • ‘Why not use your gift to make the world a better place? Where’s the love?’

Ask a Haitian-American NFL player what’s special about his upbringing, and odds are he’ll recall the childhood revelation that distinguished him from his American peers. As the boys who would be pro football players transitioned from soccer to football in childhood, and grew friendships with Americans of all stripes, they began to understand what set their own experiences apart.

“I just feel like Haitians don’t really complain,” says Bengals running back Gio Bernard.

“My dad never made any excuses,” says Vikings linebacker Emmanuel Lamur.

“Haitians appreciate what they do have instead of dwelling on their problems,” says 49ers wide receiver Pierre Garçon.

So when it was reported this week the U.S. President described Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” and privately groused about accepting immigrants from those places, several members of the small but tight-knit community of Haitian NFL players reacted with shock.

Why?

Why insult a swath of American immigrants, who, in the experience of these athletes and their families, have done nothing but respectfully and painstakingly carve out their own slice of the American pie without complaint?

“There are amazing Haitians in America who are assets to this country, who are helping both countries with hard work and charity,” says Garçon, the youngest of four children and the only person in his immediate family born in the United States. One of his three sisters is an accountant, one is an assistant principal at Glade Central High in Belle Glade, Fla., and the third is an elementary school teacher in West Palm Beach, where they grew up.

“Haitians, and really all immigrants, have it harder,” Garçon says. “You’re trying to learn the language and do things the way they do it here, play by the rules and be an asset to your country. And you still have people say that about your country and your people? It infuriates you, but you still have to respect the country you’re in and your president.”

Reached by phone on Friday, four U.S.-born Haitian-American NFL players and one former player shared their feelings on Trump and the island nation they each embrace as a second home. Minnesota linebacker Emmanuel Lamur, whose Vikings took on the Saints and won in the divisional playoffs on Sunday, said he was saddened by the President’s comments.

“My mom and dad and sister came from Haiti,” Lamur says. “They worked so hard to get where they’re at right now. They just wanted an opportunity to be here and provide the best opportunities to their kids. Isn’t that what we all want?”

During his childhood, Lamur’s mother was a nurse working two jobs and his father was a sanitation worker in West Palm Beach. Lamur remembers his parents going to work every day at 4 a.m. and making a point of never bemoaning their status. Their twin sons both went on to play pro football, with Sammuel playing two seasons in the Arena Football League and Emmanuel, undrafted, spending four years with the Bengals and the last two seasons in Minnesota. Lamur’s foundation works with the Mission of Grace outside the Haitian capital city of Port-au-Prince to care for orphans, many of them victims of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 or the 2010 earthquake that took the lives of more than 100,000 people.

“Staying out of trouble, going to school with my twin brother, we had goals and dreams, and we’re living that,” Lamur says. “We’re trying to make everywhere a better place.”

He says he hasn’t spoken to his parents about Trump’s comments but “can’t imagine what they’re feeling.”

“I’m proud to be a Haitian and an American,” Lamur says. “This is who God made me to be. Would you say the same thing about Haiti if one of your grandchildren was Haitian? Why not use your gift to make the world a better place? We have many great people in this world of all races and nationalities who have done great things. Where’s the love?”

Former NFL offensive lineman Gosder Cherilus, who officially retired last March after nine seasons in the NFL with the Lions, Colts and Buccaneers, says he was unsurprised by the President’s comments given the way he has disparaged even American cities in the past.

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SOURCE: Sports Illustrated – Robert Klemko