For Johnson Bademosi of the New Orleans Saints, his passion for standing up against bullying is a result of personal experience. In support of Capital Area United Way and the NFL, the professional special teamer sat down with Austin Pasco, the Saint’s Youth Programs Manager, to discuss bullying prevention and how students can be an ally in their school and community.
Bademosi spoke to students about times he was labeled as the “other” when he was in school. “Something that made me different was that I was in different classes than my friends. In those classes, sometimes I was the ‘other’. I had the biggest nose or the biggest lips,” Bademosi stated, “It didn’t feel good to hear people talk bad about me and look down on me because of things I couldn’t control.”
A Stanford Cardinal football alumnus, Bademosi entered the NFL via the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Since then, he has seen playing time with the Detroit Lions, New England Patriots, Houston Texans, and Miami Dolphins in addition to the Saints. He is no stranger to working with the community, which was recognized when he received the Maurice “Maus” Collins Award for excellence in leadership on and off the field while attending Gonzaga College High School.
Turning the conversation to cyberbullying, Bademosi and Basco agreed that cyberbullying can have long term impacts, both for the bullied and the bully. Basco shared that future employers won’t always see past behavior online and that everyone needs to think through their decisions before pressing send.
Even today, the Saints player has learned that his career opens him up to a different form of bullying. “Sometimes you don’t get enough points in fantasy, and an upset fan might tell you everything they think about you,” Bademosi laughed. Since his days of being bullied in school, he now understands that his differences have helped him to get to where he is today.
Having seen success in his football career, he knows that the Saints brought him onto the team as a result of his differences, not despite them. In his eyes, it all comes down to respect, self-confidence, and standing up for others. A consistent piece of advice from the athlete was, “give someone the same respect that you would want.”
This event kicked off a four-part Character Playbook series dedicated to speaking to middle and high school-aged students about the theme of Bullying Prevention. Character Playbook is a joint effort between United Way and the NFL to provide kids with the tools and support they need to succeed.
To learn more about Character Playbook or get involved, click here.