An open letter to my NFL brethren: Let’s stand together as fathers, for the children in our lives

To my brothers in the National Football League:

Like you, I had the privilege of playing in the NFL. In my heyday, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I played with greats like Phil Simms and Lawrence Taylor.

Representatives of your union met with NFL owners in New York on Tuesday to discuss players who have been taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racism in this country. I have strong feelings about that – my father, a Navy pilot, died in a plane crash before I was born. But first I want to talk about a problem that was widespread when I played and is even more common today – fatherlessness.

We don’t talk much today about how boys become men. Back in my day, only about eight percent of all children living in the U.S. went to bed without a father in their story. Today, the problem is three or four times as bad, and it’s especially pronounced in minority communities, with more than 20 million fatherless children in our country. That’s not to mention the children going to bed with a father who’s emotionally absent or worse, present and physically abusive.

Many of you can identify with the pain and loss of not having a father in your story. The problem was common in the NFL when I played and seems even more common today.

Some of you were blessed with men and coaches who stood up for you and invested in your lives while others lived with the loss of a father who stepped out, took a knee and did not take part in your story. This loss affects every part of your life.

Thankfully, another man stood up for me when my mother and I could not stand up for ourselves. He married her when I was one year old, and without him, my story would have been very different. But ultimately, it was my encounter with God the Father that brought the healing I needed to be the kind of man and father that makes a difference. 

My fellow players, your influence really matters, so that’s why I’m asking you to stand up for the children in your lives. To these children, you are much more than the jersey that you wear – you are the only father figure they have ever known.

Take a stand by:

  • Being the kind of man that every mom and dad tells their children, “I want you to be just like him;”
  • Treating the women in your life with honor and respect;
  • Living out your public life in a way that gives hope and structure to the fatherless kids that watch you every week; and
  • Being a present, loving father to your kids.

Finally, let me add a personal note. As a child whose father and stepfather served in the military, I hope you will take a stand for our flag and the freedom that cost many of our fathers their lives. The issues you are fighting for are of the upmost importance. We see you and we hear you.

But no matter what you decide, I hope we can stand together as fathers; this will speak volumes to children of every color and race and encourage them to do the same.

More than 2,500 years ago, a man wrote in Lamentations 5:3, “Orphans we are, not a father in sight and our mothers are no better than widows.” In so many ways, not much has changed since then. We still need men and women, fathers and mothers, willing to stand together for change.

I’m praying for you,

Ed Tandy McGlasson

Former lineman with the New York Giants, Jets and Los Angeles Rams

Ed Tandy McGlasson is the founder of The Blessing of the Father Ministries and the creator of “The Blessing of the Father for Families” video series and workbook.