Just five years ago, former NFL kicker and current CBS analyst Jay Feely would have felt much differently about the Colin Kaepernick protests. Quite frankly, hed probably be one of the many voices that are unwavering in detesting those taking a knee during the national anthem, regardless of the underlying message. He was a vocal critic of President Barack Obamas policies and is staunchly right-wing in his politics.
When I played, the national anthem was one of the most special things, Feely recently told the Shadow League. “I love the anthem and get choked up every time I hear it. I have two brothers who are serving in the U.S. military. One is in the Air Force and another in the Coast Guard. I always thought about them during the national anthem and appreciated their service and what they do. So thats a fine line that you walk and I understand the overreactions.
Feely is still a patriot to the core. However, he sees the venom thrown Colin Kaepernick’s way and the stubbornness of some people across the country towards the former NFL quarterback’s protest in a slightly different light.
Feely has walked more than a mile in another brothers shoes and he now has a much better understanding as to why Kaepernick would risk his career in such a controversial manner to make a change in America.
Feelys life and his perspective as a white man in America changed dramatically when he met teenager Wedner Delmonte on a trip to Haiti shortly after the terrible earthquake in 2010 that ravaged the island, killing hundreds of thousands.
Former NFL kicker Jay Feely played an important role in helping GCU soccer’s Wedner Delmonte pursue his dream and find his purpose. For more information, please visit gculopes.com.
Delmonte is now a 22-year-old, 5-foot-6 college junior who plays soccer at New Mexico State. Delmonte owes much of his once in lifetime opportunity to Feely, whom he has lived with since moving from Haiti four years ago, when Feelys American family took in the poor, young but vibrant, intelligent and talented kid who was their translator on mission trips to the island.
Ive seen first hand, a racism I never knew existed, Feely said, remembering the uncomfortable reaction the family got in public places from people. It was an awakening to the systematic, psychological and subtle racism that people of color have to live with.
Wed be in the store and people would react to him in a way that I had never seen them react, Feely said. So its opened my eyes to things that I didnt know existed.
Haitis Earthquake And Faith Forges Two Worlds
Nobody tells the story better than Feely, whom I knew little of past his exploits as a kicker on the gridiron. Casual conversation turned into ten minutes of enlightenment and discovery. I left very impressed with the man and his humility, along with the pure joy he exhibited when telling the story of how he became the caregiver and father-figure to a Haitian boy he met doing Gods work.
We went to Haiti right after the devastating earthquake and we started helping to rebuild homes and churches down there,” he said. “We started a feeding program where we fed over 110,000 people a day through a group called Mission of Hope. Thats where we met Delmonte. He was our translator for a couple of years, every time we went back to Haiti. We kind of fell in love with him. Everytime Id go, hed be there.”
Feely and his wife Rebecca took to Wedner’s captivating personality.
Hes an amazing soccer player with a crazy backstory,” said Feely. “The minimal home that his family did have was destroyed in the earthquake. He was living on the roof, earning money for his family as much as he could for a translator. I just kind of fell in love with him and just decided I want to help him. I watched him play soccer and I knew he could play in college and that was his goal. So we set about doing that.
It took about a year and a half to get a VISA for him. He moved in with us in February and started college in September of 2014. He had to learn reading comprehension and attended an English intensive program at ASU and then Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. And then finally when he mastered the academic tools needed to attend college in America, we started going through the process of getting him into college. Eventually New Mexico State gave him a scholarship for soccer.
Fresh Prince of AZ
One of the most amazing things Ive ever been a part of was going and picking him up,” Feely continued. “His mom and sisters were crying, ‘Whos this white guy coming to take their son?’
He jokingly and fondly reminisced on the sad but joyous and emotional day that Delmonte left his family in Haiti and joined him, his wife Rebecca and their four kids in Arizona.
It was a leap of faith for both families.
He had never left Port-Au-Prince until that day,” said Feely. “So now we’re getting on a plane and Im taking video of his face and how hes just going crazy as we go up in the air and everything that you take for granted was just special and new and unique to him. We land in Miami and his eyes are open to this world that he never really knew existed. And every food he ate, he had never had. Raspberries, blueberries, yogurt…
As much as his life changed and we did for him, hes done more for my family and my kids. Just being around and talking to them. When theyre having an attitude about food Ill say, Well talk to Delmonte, he went three days at times without food.
You are HaitMerican now So proud of all you’ve accomplished and what you have yet to achieve. ‘You know Lecrae?’ https://t.co/u8KenEx5xI
So when you ask Feely if the Kaepernick, protests are good or bad for league, he doesnt see the issue as black and white as others see it.
When I played, I always viewed the platform you were given by people as your greatest advantage in being a professional athlete because you can have an impact on peoples lives through a little bit of effort you can go into a school and talk to kids and you may change the direction of a young man or little girls life,” he said.
“You can take the time to go to a hospital. You can sit down with somebody for five minutes and for you, its not that big deal. But for them, that gave them some joy and happiness when theyre going through the toughest times in their life.
Anyone who uses the platform to try and better their community and try and better the world, I think its a positive thing and not a negative thing.
Now youre seeing players take those stances to try and have a positive impact. I was speaking to Michael Bennett last week on a CBS broadcast and he talked about how its a message of inclusion and equality and not a negative message. I do think in the end, hopefully as a country, we heal wounds that exist and have better communication.”
57′ | @WednerWedner scores his first official goal as a Lobo on a swift header in the second half! Score is now 4-1 UNM! #GoLobos https://t.co/TVRYCw8X4m
Sometimes that understanding and empathy can only come when we actually walk a mile in the shoes of the underserved, oppressed and ignored.
Feely says his eyes are open to things now that, As a white guy , I wouldnt necessarily see. I’ve been in the locker room for 20 years in a predominantly African-American league and I heard about the subtle racism and such, but didnt have to live it.
After he chose to live with it, it didnt change a heart that was already golden, but it did open a mind that was unfamiliar with the other side of lifes ups and downs.