Eddie George Interview: "I Think There Should Be Punishments for Athletes That Step Across That Line in Terms of Racial Slurs"
Image attributed to Mary Carter
Edward Nathan George, Jr. (Eddie George) is a Heisman Trophy winner (Ohio State University, 1995) and former running back in the National Football League (NFL) for nine seasons with the Tennessee Titans and the Dallas Cowboys. He was second in Ohio State history in career rushing yards (3,768) and third in rishing touchdowns (44). In the NFL, George is only the second running back to rush for 10,000 yards while never missing a start. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame (2014).
Not one to rest on his records after retiring from the NFL, George appeared on several television shows, has opened sports-themed restaurants and has acted in Shakespearean plays on the stage. He is currently a judge on NBC’s American Dream Builders and during the past decade has quietly built businesses aimed at helping improve the quality of life for all Americans. These companies include the EDGE Group, a planning and design firm helping to create healthy communities and EGX Lifestyle working to help people develop healthy lives.
“I think there should be punishments for athletes that step across that line in terms of racial slurs. To say that their livelihoods should be taken, I think that’s a bit harsh. I do believe there’s a level where you have to give them a second chance and allow them to exorcise their demons and so forth, but to take away their livelihoods, I’m not a big fan of that.”
George finds his work with charities very rewarding, including his own non-profit organization, Visions with Infinite Possibilities. He is currently a sports analyst with Fox Sports and is married to Tamara “Taj” Johnson-George, a Grammy nominated singer with the soul group SWV (Sisters With Voices). The couple have two sons, Eriq and Jaire.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Eddie, first let’s discuss how your became the 2014 Daddy of the Year by Daddy & Co. How in the world did you beat out millions of other fathers for that honor?
Eddie George: (laughs) I don’t know. You’d have to ask the CEO of Daddy and Company, Robert Nickell. He has a groundbreaking podcast that talks about men who are fathers, children and the affects of their dads in their lives. I don’t think there’s enough programming out there that really opens up the conversation of what it means to be a father from a responsible level of taking care of his family financially and emotionally.
I have two sons and two different situations. My oldest lives with his mother in Maryland, and I had the other son with my current wife. So I talk about how I handle both relationships differently in regard to how I have to support them. It’s a learning experience for myself. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t have all the right answers. I’ve made several mistakes, but I try to learn through those mistakes.
My greatest teachers are my sons and my experiences I have with them. It’s truly fascinating to see me all over again at 17 where my oldest is right now and my 9 year old. It’s quite an interesting thing where you relive your life and see through an adult perspective what you used to be like growing up. The lessons I’ve learned through my mentors, mother and family, I try to give to my sons now.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Robert Nickell is the host of My Life As a Dad?
Eddie George: Yes. There are different celebrity fathers, Chris Paul and myself among others, and we just talk about what life is like being a father. Some athletes are dealing with the fact that they didn’t have a father, so they talk about how they became one. We take on different ideas and different philosophies. My sons and I have a best buddy weekend where we get together in the summertime and go to an amusement park like Six Flags New Jersey or we’ll go to the beach in Florida. Every Sunday I try to have a best buddy brunch, and we’ll talk about everything from football and baseball to girls. You name it. We’re talking about it. We just continue the ritual and can always remember that was something we used to do.
Robert wants the show to be a learning experience. After interviews with several dads, he learned so much more about what it means to be a father because we can all learn something from each other in terms of how to deal with different issues and various problems. There isn’t a handbook on how to parent, or if there is one, I’m quick to throw it away because it never goes that way (laughs). Life just comes out of nowhere, but through these stories and the different processes, we can have the blueprints of how to successfully manage life’s issues.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Very cool. What prompted your remarks about the 2012 Heisman Trophy winnder Johnny Manziel, saying that he was more interested in being a celebrity than in his playbook? I’m paraphrasing some of your remarks here.
Eddie George: Someone asked me the question about what I thought about Johnny Manziel in terms of going out partying. I just gave my opinion based on my experience of having been drafted at a place where I thought I should’ve been hired and just the attitude that I had going into camp and wanting to prove myself.
I think Johnny is a fantastic quarterback. I’ve watched him and covered him through the years at Texas A&M, and he’s very much the showman on the football field and rightfully so, but when you’re going into uncharted territory, your past will catch up in terms of what people say about you. Granted you shouldn’t care what people think, but you want to go in with good impressions especially for your team, and when you’re in Vegas partying it up right around mini-camp, you want to show that you’re not going to settle for just being a second string guy.
You need to win your teammates over, possibly win a couple of games, and then go out and do what you have to do. It’s okay to have fun, but to go out there and be bombastic about it and just putting it on a live broadcast … I don’t think we need to see that. I’ve had my fun, but it just tells me that there are some signs there that it’s more about the celebrity than being about the quarterback, the craftsmanship and the winning. That’s my general feeling about it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It must take so much training both mentally and physically to remain consistently successful in the NFL.
Eddie George: You’ve got to understand, too, that you’re coming into a situation … this is professional level. You’re going to have success early on because they don’t know your style, and you might win some games, but eventually they will figure you out. It behooves you to work not only just the basics of the game and to understand football’s special terminology, but to prepare and work on your weaknesses because you’re already coming in with a bullseye on your back because you’re a Hesiman Trophy winner.
Teams want nothing more than to embarrass you and show you that you are a bust, so Johnny has to do everything he can to cross every t and dot every i because everybody’s looking at you to fail. I would like nothing more to see him succeed versus fall prey to the celebrity lifestyle because we’ve seen it come and go time and time again.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): In light of the Donald Sterling situation where he was banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million by the league after his racist remarks were made public, do you believe that the actual players in football or basketball should be thrown off the team for making offensive remarks during a game?
Eddie George: As far as punishing athletes that make rude comments in terms of racial issues?
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interivews Magazine): Yes.
Eddie George: I think that if you’re in a position of power like Donald Sterling, you should know better than to voice your opinion in that way because you own an organization where you have to interact with a diverse group of people from different ethnicities. That doesn’t represent what the NBA or the NFL is about.
I think there should be punishments for athletes that step across that line in terms of racial slurs. To say that their livelihoods should be taken, I think that’s a bit harsh. I do believe there’s a level where you have to give them a second chance and allow them to exorcise their demons and so forth, but to take away their livelihoods, I’m not a big fan of that.
I think they should be punished but not to the degree of their livelihoods because we live in a country where there’s a freedom of speech. When we start taking away how someone’s supposed to live, we’re taking away their rights and freedom of speech. We’ve got to be really careful about what we do and how we respond and punish people for the things they say.
It truly is a paradigm that has to be shifted in the consciousness of everyone in the United States. There’s a very fine line that you draw when you talk about racial slurs and equality for certain groups, and everbody has an opinion about it. Some people like it, some don’t like it, and some people couldn’t care less, but you have to be careful about how you punish people moving forward and that we’re not going down this path of where freedom of speech is infringed upon.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you think the Washington Redskins should change their name?
Eddie George: That is a very sensitive topic. I think if a group feels like they have been degraded by that name, it should be changed. But I understand that if that’s the case then you have to look across the board at all teams not just the Redskins but the Cleveland Indians and so forth. You have to look at all of it. If a certain group feels like they are being disrespected by the name, then by all means, it should be changed.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You appear to have your hand in the entertainment arena in addition to sports and being a businessman. Is acting something you’ve always wanted to do?
Eddie George: Yes. Absolutely. You know, I’ve been retired for the last ten years. In that time frame, I’ve had a lot of time on my hands. One of the things that resonated with me was theater for many reasons. I wanted to feel more comfortable in front of a camera. I found that didn’t correlate at all, but what I did find was a way of expressing myself in a way that I hadn’t before. I had expressed myself through my physicality.
In acting, I was able to express myself through the character, through the writing, my fears, doubts and excitement. Every emotion I experienced playing football, I can do through language, and that really appealed to me in terms of telling a story, so I jumped on the stage about eight years ago, and I didn’t look back. Shakespeare wasn’t my first go- round. I did a two-man play by Suzan-Lori Parks called Topdog/Underdog earlier in my career. I’ve done God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson, Othello, Julius Caesar.
I’m slated to do another play this winter in 2015 which I’m really excited about on stage at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. Theater has very much, in the last few years, been a part of my life much like football was during my earlier years. I take it very seriously. I enjoy it, I look to grow within it, and I look eo embrace all the opportunities that will allow me to have. I love telling the stories through the eyes of the various characters.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you be doing a new Fox college football show in September?
Eddie George: Well, I’ve done that for the last two years. We’ll see what happens this fall. I may be doing something different.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Has American Dream Builders been picked up for a second season?
Eddie George: I don’t know that yet. That still remains to be seen. Hopefully, we’ll have another season, and hopefully I’ll be a part of the panel if they do. That was a great experience that gave me the opportunity to show my business side as well as my artistic side.
I’ve had a land planning firm for the last thirteen years called EDGE, and it has offices in Nashville, Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio. That’s something that people do not know about me. It’s a business I’ve invested my time and money in to help grow it to be one of the leading firms in our industry.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Give me some predictions for the college football Final Four for the 2014 season.
Eddie George: Well, I would have to say Florida State has their quarterback coming back and some great guys on the defensive side of the football; Alabama out of the SEC. Coming out of the Big Ten, I would have to lean a little bit toward Ohio State over Michigan State. I think Ohio State has the talent. They’ll get it done with the coaching staff and really great cohesion on the defensive side of the football which was their achilles heel last year, so I like Ohio State.
Finally, I’d look at the Big 12. I think they’re so deep in terms of from top to bottom that it’s going to be hard to navigate through the Big 12 without a loss. I like a one-loss Oklahoma team for a spot over a two-loss or a one-loss team coming out of the Pac-12, either Oregon or Stanford. This is really a great year for college football because we just don’t know what to expect. The ball’s in the air.
We have this new four team playoff system that everybody’s been wanting, but we don’t know how that’s going to unfold. We also have a lot of unknowns where you have some quarterbacks that had experience last year, and they’re coming with a great deal of confidence, andyou’ve got some dark horses out there, so that’s what makes the college game so intriguing and so fun to watch every single year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me, Eddie, what do you want your two sons to learn from you and take with them for the rest of their lives?
Eddie George: To never quit. There is no option to quit. When you have setbacks and when you are truly facing adversity, those are times to learn about yourself, and they are times to make you stronger. The only way you fail is if you stop, so never give up. Never quit on your dreams.
If God has given you the dream or the seed of something he wants you to accomplish that’s on your heart, you have to understand that it’s not going to come at an easy price. You’re going to have to go to the dark valleys at dark times in order to get there, but just understand it’s a part of the journey. It’s not the journey. It’s not the end point. Never quit.
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