Najee Harris and the disgusting existence of homelessness.

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( “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization, when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.”-From Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 book Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?

There are no questions that one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s. many life goals included the elimination of poverty. He dedicated his life to it, led movements against poverty, and developed plans against it including writing about a guaranteed, middle-class income in his 1967 book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? His drive towards abolishing poverty was one of the many reasons why King was assassinated. It has been over 50 years since King’s assassination and poverty remains a major issue domestically and globally. Homelessness is one of the by-products of poverty and rarely during a sports broadcast is the topic of homelessness is brought up but it was during the November 8th Monday Night Football Game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers. The discussion of homelessness during that NFL game on Monday Night Football and the discussions following it need to have a broader analysis.

One of the most productive rookies this NFL season has been Pittsburgh Steelers running back Najee Harris. The former Alabama star has given the Steelers a power back with the ability to catch the football and the team is pleased to have spent a 2021 first round draft pick on him. Harris played in the November 8th Monday Night Football game and his background became a topic of discussion on the televised broadcast of the game. ESPN’s Monday Night Football announcers took time to talk about Harris’ story of growing up in California, where he and his family occasionally dealt with homelessness before he became a high school football star. One of those announcers, Steve Levy said on the broadcast that Harris slept on the floor for his first few months in his college dorm room at Alabama. “He said he was just more comfortable, he was more used to that,” Levy said on the air. The problem is that ESPN was inaccurate and wrong about Harris’s sleeping on the floor in college and Harris rightly called them out for it. He addressed the comments on Twitter, writing, “Bra I ain’t sleep on no dam floor in college. I slept on my bed.”


Sadly, ESPN mixed up the story about Najee Harris sleeping on the floor with another former Alabama running back and first round NFL Draft pick, Josh Jacobs. After Jacobs’s parents divorced in 2006, Josh and his four siblings lived with their father, Marty. The family was homeless, bouncing from an apartment, to motels, to living in their car and eventually a house and his story was even highlighted in a Super Bowl ad. The stories of Harris’s and Jacobs’s homelessness as youth are sad and should be frustrating to hear and that both men are Black aren’t surprising as it relates to many homeless in this country. Recent data reveals that Black people “make up 13 percent of the general population, but more than 40 percent of the homeless population. Similarly, American Indians/Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, and people who identify as two or more races make up a disproportionate share of the homeless population.”

In professional sports, the “rags-to-riches” story of Black athletes coming from abject poverty or even homelessness is viewed as another version of the “American Dream”. It is viewed as a positive that some of the Black youth who make it to professional sports leagues have “worked hard” and avoided the pitfalls of growing up in impoverished neighborhoods to get to the highest level of professional sports. Harris’s story of being homeless as a kid and now aiding homeless people as a professional athlete was promoted during the NFL TV broadcast as indictive as a positive of Harris’s character traits while the systemic racism or structures that caused his family to be homeless are not evaluated at all. The economic system in America continues to produce homeless people and even homeless veterans even as Veterans Day recently occurred. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was always right regarding poverty and that it needs to be eliminated so people can regain the humanity that they rightly deserve.

Staff Writer; Mark Hines