TAMPA, Fla. — What started as a quick text between friends ended with dozens of people – strangers included – uniting to repair a broken city.
“We hit everybody up,” Ray-Ray McCloud III said. “Jordan hit up his friends. I hit up my group of friends.”
McCloud, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills and former Sickles player, and younger brother Jordan, a quarterback at USF, were among a group of Tampa-area football players cleaning on Fowler Avenue the day after Saturday’s protests turned into looting.
“A lot of people were driving by and a lot of cars just pulled up and started to help us,” Ray-Ray said. “Some people brought water. Some people brought shovels – tools to help us be better that day.”
While NFL workouts are on hold due to the coronavirus, Ray-Ray has been working out in Tampa. Jordan expects football practices to return to USF’s campus around June 15.
In the meantime, the duo wanted to change the narrative in town after a violent weekend.
“We did it as a family, we did it together,” Jordan said. “Obviously, it’s sad what was going on, but while we were doing it, we had smiles on faces, just making people around us happy.”
But, there’s more rebuilding to do on the inside, and sports can help.
“Especially in the football world that we live in,” Jordan said. “With that sport, it's the greatest team unity sport. So, I think, if coaches or ADs aren’t talking out about it, it kind of looks like they don't care about it.”
USF coaches have been vocal throughout the week in condemning racial injustice as tensions escalated on the fringe of their campus. In the immediate days following George Floyd’s death, Bulls football coach Jeff Scott initiated a meeting with his players to offer help.
“When he talked to us, it was just genuine love,” Jordan said. “He was letting us know that he’s here for us through whatever, just to support us. If we need anything, just call him. He wants to even learn more. He wants to understand what we're going through.”
Jordan suggested to Scott that the team participate in “unity-bonding,” something he participated in with teammates while a student at Plant High School. The goal of the off-the-field exercises is to spend time with different types of people and get to know their life experiences outside of football.
“Some of my best friends are white,” Jordan said. “When you hang around people you get to understand their experiences and stuff like that. So, they kind of can see – they don't feel – but they can kind of see what you're going through on a daily basis. They can see the profiling and the things that happen to you. All the driving while black and stuff like that – it’s all real. So, if they're with you they can try to understand, but they'll never understand how frustrating it is. They can only just help and be there for support.”
After a week of hurting, the McClouds want the next generation to be prepared.
“I want them to know what their history comes from,” Ray-Ray said. “How to react to certain situations, how to adapt to certain situations. There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way to do things. We have to teach the next generation the right things to do.”
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