On Wednesday afternoon in Boca Raton, the four-time Pro Bowl left tackle for the Miami Dolphins shared his feelings about bullies and how to handle them with a large audience of kids at the Florence Fuller Child Development Center. It was all part of the Anti-Bullying Program for the Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County.
The first thing the young boys and girls were impressed by was Long’s gigantic stature when the 6-foot-7, 315-pound lineman walked to the center of the outdoor basketball court in the back of the school. He took the microphone from theprogram’s kid friendly emcee, Salty Sue, and revealed his pink shirt underneath his No. 77 jersey.
Pink was the theme because this program was inspired by an incident that happened in a Canadian high school when a student wearing a pink shirt was being bullied and some seniors came to his defense. That message resonated with Long.
“I hate bullies and I think it’s the wrong thing to do,” Long told the kids. “It’s not an attractive quality. It’s not funny and it’s not cool to make fun of someone for wearing a pink shirt or looking a certain way or if they can’t do something as good as you. So to go out there and make fun of someone for that, it’s not cool and people don’t like you for it. It’s not funny. Please don’t do it and be a friend.”
As Long continued to speak the chatter died down to a whisper and the kids really were paying close attention to his every word. He encouraged them to go help someone if they see that person being bullied and to tell a teacher or an adult or tell that bully to stop. Long revealed that when he was asked to come speak at this event he accepted the invitation on the spot because the cause meant a lot.
Shortly after he handed the microphone back to Salty Sue, Long posed for some pictures, signed some autographs and took in the rest of the program, which featured songs and dances by the different groups of kids. He felt very strong about the message of the entire program because he remembers how he approached it in his youth.
“I was always trying to be friendly with people,” said Long of his younger days. “I’ve never been a bully and that’s just my personality so if I ever saw it I’d always try to steer away from it or try to stop it. I just don’t think it’s a cool thing to do and I’m glad I never was one. So it’s great that this many kids and parents and teachers have come out and supported the cause and arereally trying to step up against bullying. I think it’s a pretty cool event.”
As it turns out, the amount of enthusiasm displayed by Long was equaled by the amount of enthusiasm thrown back at him by the kids. They were genuinely surprised to see a professional football player on their campus and took his words to heart.
“I think it’s important that they see him and see that he’s concerned and he cares about people feeling good about themselves and not being bullied so they don’t feel that they have to do something to make themselves known,” said Yolanda Adams, the afterschool director at Florence Fuller. “Just being kind and being respectful to others is important as well. When we first started with the anti-bullying program the kids were a little excited but it’s really taken off now. I’ve never seen them this excited about a pink shirt.”
Now they know they can look at Long when he’s playing on Sundays in the fall and know that he is just as excited.