On a brisk Tuesday afternoon at the city’s west side, youth athletes participated in football drills and activities led by the Chicago Bears.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, defensive back Duke Shelley, former running back Matt Forte and safety Deon Bush conducted the training as part of Nike’s “Sport Changes Everything” initiative. Many of them said sports presented an opportunity to run away from various life issues and how they used that concept as a steppingstone to reach the NFL.
“We as athletes have got to do better in helping our community out,” said Patterson. “Not just coming here, showing our face when there’s a lot of people around. We’ve got to do stuff in the dark when people don’t see us.”
Patterson said that when professional athletes assisted their local neighborhoods on their own merit, it held more significance. The South Carolina native said it does not take much effort to show up when the cameras flash around him, but the work outside of his required duties to the community as part of an NFL team played a larger role in the impact he hoped to create.
“Everybody wants to do it when they get recognition,” said Patterson. I love to do stuff when people don’t even know it’s me, a silent part if you want to call it.”
As the camera crew of the Bears and Nike surrounded them in the various drills on a makeshift basketball court, Patterson and his teammate Bush remained involved with the athletes during the training. While the drills played a role, Patterson and Bush said they wanted the children to understand that the scope of sports played just as an important role in their success as their athletic talent did.
“It [sports] gives you a chance to get away from the negatives in this world,” said Bush. Sports are the light to a lot of these kids growing up in bad areas… I feel like the more that you get the kids’ minds going on something other than the norm that is out there, it helps a lot.”
Bush and Patterson’s prospective played into why Nike pursued the campaign. A company spokesman said his team wanted to use professional athletes because their message helped the children understand the opportunities that sports provided for players like Patterson or Bush.
“They can see these guys where clearly sports have changed their life because they’re at the pinnacle of their career,” said the spokesman. “And inspire these kids to one day work hard enough and listen to one of these guys and listen to their message and get to that level.”
Events are scheduled until Nov. 4, which marks the end of Nike’s “Sport Changes Everything” campaign in Chicago. Other attendees thus far included two Chicago natives in former Whitney Young High School basketball player McKinley Nelson and USA Wheelchair Basketball athlete Ixhelt Gonzalez. The pop-up diner, or more traditionally known as Lulu’s Hot Dogs, remains open to anyone looking for a Chicago-style hot dog or Italian beef.