ESPN’s Chris Broussard speaks at the Flint Big Brothers Big Sisters 70th anniversary gala at Art Van Furniture in Flint on Friday, Sept. 12.

Chris Broussard makes a living by giving his views on sports on national TV on ESPN, and during the first of two stops in Flint on Friday, he had a lot to say.

But sports were only a small part of his message: He was more focused on speaking about systemic racism, the need for a reconstruction of the black male image, and the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo..

Broussard spoke at the Flint Big Brothers Big Sisters Anniversary gala at Art Van Furniture, and he will speak again on Saturday, Sept. 13, at Charity United Methodist Church, located at 4601 Clio Road, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.

“If you look at the history of the country, it’s really clear that everything that could be used — religion, science, the law, not to mention physical weapons, propaganda, the press, literature — all of it was used to put a negative stigma and a negative image to black men,” Broussard said during an interview. “While it’s come a long way, we still have not eradicated that image.”

As evidence for those image issues, Broussard cited unarmed black men such as Ferguson teen Mike Brown who have been killed by police, and blacks who are incarcerated for drug use at higher rates than whites. Blacks are 13 percent of drug users and sellers in the United States, he said, but 74 percent of the people sent to prison for drug-related crimes.

“That means that we’re sending black people to jail and prison for something you’re not sending white people to jail and prison for. That’s unjust,” he said. “We know that there are as many drugs done on a college campus as there are in the projects, but the entire focus is on the ‘hood.'”

“…Statistics show that a black man with an associate’s degree has the same opportunity to get a job as a white man with a high school diploma. So there’s challenges even for blacks without a record, with a good education,” he said. “So when you put a record on it for smoking marijuana, which a kid in the suburbs does but there’s no record of that, that’s a problem, because that makes it hard for this brother to get a good job, and to get a good education, and to be good marriage material, and to be the type of father that he would like to be and be the authority that a father needs.”

Such a disparate prison system makes organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters so necessary, he said, and puts the children in its program at risk.

But systemic racism isn’t the only issue — Broussard said that popular hip-hop music shows an embrace of that negative image, which misleads people who don’t have regular interaction with blacks.

Addressing both systemic racism and blacks’ own behavior is the only way to honestly address the problem, Broussard said.

Broussard also made sports references at the event. While citing the importance of mentors to the audience, he cited LeBron James’ high school coach Keith B. Dambrot, who inspired him to maximize his potential as one of the most business-savvy professional athletes in the country, and care for friends such as Maverick Carter and Rich Paul by letting them administer his career and set up successful careers of their own.

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William E. Ketchum III

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