Stephon Gilmore found himself in a barbershop chair on the Edgerley Family South Boston Boys & Girls Club stage earlier this week. With approximately 40 boys, young men, and a few young women hanging on his every word, the Patriots’ 29-year-old cornerback handled questions on whether he ever eats at Subway (yes) and how many interceptions he has (3).
But the message Gilmore kept returning to was one of respect, openness, and resilience. It’s central to Gilmore’s credo about how to stay on track for success even through the toughest times, and it also happened to resonate with the event’s co-sponsor, Gillette, and its ongoing “The Best Men Can Be” campaign.
Focusing on allowing boys and men to be more open and in touch with their emotions, rather than burying them and becoming more prone to more harmful forms of masculinity, the campaign strikes a chord with Gilmore.
“There’s a lot of different versions” of men, said Gilmore after the talk, which concluded with a team of barbers offering free haircuts for the kids. “Some people are sensitive, some people are not. You’ve got to understand if you say something or act towards someone in some way, everybody’s different, and they’re going to take it in a different way. Try to not to do that, or teach people not to do that.”
Gilmore is employed in an industry about as traditionally “masculine” as it can get, with players encouraged to tackle hard, play hurt and be, at all times, tough. Yet NFL players struggle with more than physical injuries that limit them.
Gilmore said that he and his peers have begun to change their attitudes about seeking help with whatever emotional and mental struggles they are having.
The sport has recognized the need as well.
“They didn’t have it at the beginning of my career, but there are more resources” for counseling, said Gilmore, who was a frequent visitor to the Boys & Girls Club in his South Carolina hometown. “I think back maybe 10 years ago, it wasn’t talked about as much, people kind of ignored it. Now, people are talking about it more, and a lot of people are seeing improvement. For sure, guys use it, and it helps them a lot.”
Gilmore believes positive strides have been made in shifting out-of-date views on what men can do, believe, and express.
“A lot of people are more open about their situation, talking about it,” said Gilmore. “It’s allowed people to say, ‘Yeah, that’s me,’ or, ‘That’s my problem,’ or, ‘I should be better in this area.’ ”
“You can be a great person, you can be a great man, and that can take you a long way, but it’s more than someone that has this or has that,” he said. “The ‘better person,’ that’s who people will remember more. I’d rather be a better person.”
Goodbye to a legend
Fred Cox, the inventor of the NERF football, died Wednesday at the age of 80. In 1972, a spherical NERF ball was already being used to nail siblings at close range, but Cox, the Vikings kicker, suggested using a heavier and denser foam material, injection-molded into the shape and size of a football, for kids to use to practice kicking and throwing. Cox remains the Minnesota Vikings’ all-time leading scorer (1,365 points) . . . Forbes unveiled its Major League Soccer valuation list for this year. The league’s 24 teams have an average valuation of $313 million, with the New England Revolution at $245 million — ranking 17th — with 2018 revenues of $29 million. Atlanta United sits atop the list at $500 million, with $78 million in revenues last year . . . Samantha Barkowski, manager of research and intelligence at the Red Sox and Fenway Sports Group, was chosen for the inaugural class of “New Voices Under 30” by Sports Business Journal. Barkowski and others are being honored for “reimagining the sports experience and the way business is done” . . . Surely you’ve noticed how NBA and NFL players’ pregame entrances spark a flurry of fodder for fashionistas about what shoes, sunglasses, and headphones are being worn. Now the Brooklyn Nets have an entryway sponsor — GOAT, a global style platform — at their Barclays Center home.