Pro football in Los Angeles was on full display at the Citadel Outlets off the 5 Freeway in Commerce during the AFC and NFC Championship games in an effort to help families and curb child abuse. A man with graying hair and wearing a dark blue pullover with a Rams logo greeted guests in the outlet mall’s VIP lounge balcony. Large screen and small screen TVs showed the unfolding battle between the Denver Broncos and the New England Patriots, but the man, former UCLA standout and NFL Pro Bowler Kermit Alexander, was busy shaking hands and acknowledging guests.
The Citadel mall provided the space and Alexander and his wife Tami gathered the list of former gridiron greats to sign autographs and raffle off memorabilia to raise money to benefit The Raise Foundation and Prevent Child Abuse Riverside County. It was a fitting day for the event because January 23, 2010 was what Tami Alexander called the “gotcha” day for the couple’s five adopted children from Haiti. The kids at the time ranged in age from 9 to 16.
Adopting children coming from tragic circumstances means more than a lifetime of giving out smiles and hugs. Processing loss and helping the children adjust to a new culture is a significant undertaking. “Sometimes we forget the day to day business of taking care of kids,” said Tami. “We forget about the parents and the kids who are needing to process. We need to stop and ask ‘How are you? And, ‘How can I help?'”
Loss is something Kermit Alexander carries around with him. He was a stellar defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers from 1963 to 1969, played the next season for the Rams and played his last year with the Philadelphia Eagles in 1972. After he retired, in 1984 he was hired to be the color commentator for UCLA and the thrill of football was overcome by a nightmare when his mother, sister, and two nephews were shot and killed in their home in South Central Los Angeles. They had taken bullets meant for someone else when gang members broke into the wrong home. He described the ordeal in his memoir “The Valley of the Shadow of Death: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption.” The painful memory will never be erased in this lifetime, yet he continues helping others.
Organizing a contingent of sixteen former NFL players is one way to do that. Football, says Alexander, is a positive influence on local communities. “We’re products of our communities and the sport can teach kids and parents how to take responsibility.”
On TV screens at the Citadel, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were each struggling to gain yards on the opposing defense watched by guys who knew the intensity of grinding out yards on the field and who played for a lot less money. A former LA Ram, Reggie Doss was on hand with Dave Hill who played for the Detroit Lions and the Rams. Both live in the Riverside area and said people should be aware of ways to prevent abuse because it touches families in some many ways, whether that includes mental abuse and human trafficking.
Hill said football players who are doing well today financially may be tempted to ignore their communities. For those who are involved, they are constructive role models.
Alexander, Doss, and Hill were positive about the Rams moving back to the Los Angeles area. The new stadium in Inglewood would enhance the quality of life in the area and, as Kermit Alexander said, motivate residents to take responsibility for their neighborhoods.