Today, the article for discussion is by Daniel Dale, City Hall reporter for the Toronto Star entitled
In 2008, Rob Ford told the National Post he was “absolutely sure” Jerome Miller “would be dead or in jail” if not for his two years playing for the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School football team. Which was news to Jerome Miller, now the offensive coordinator on the Ford-led Don Bosco coaching staff, says Ford’s assertion was “untrue.” He says he has never been in any trouble with the law, was on the honour roll in Grades 9 and 10, and had a present and supportive father.
“Even my dad said something about it. He didn’t like it at all,” Miller, now 28, said in a Thursday interview. “But we kind of just left it alone and let it sink under the bridge.” Miller, a former star running back, praised Ford at length for his devotion to Don Bosco players. But he also concurred with teachers, students and parents who says the mayor needs to choose his words more carefully when speaking of the team and school.
“I totally agree with that,” Miller said. “He does do a whole lot, more than people see, behind closed doors for these kids. Helps them out if they need any help, for any reason at all. He’s the first one that will be there for them. But he just speaks his mind, and from his heart, and doesn’t really realize sometimes what he says can be portrayed in the wrong way.”
The Catholic school board is conducting a probe of a Sun News interview last week in which Ford said many players “come from gangs,” live in “broken homes,” and would not go to school at all if there were no football. Ford called Don Bosco, in Rexdale, a “tough school” in a “tough area.” Players, he said, have told him they would be dead or in jail if not for the team.
Ford also praised the players as intelligent and hard-working. And he enthusiastically spoke of the happiness he feels when they succeed in life. “You’d be amazed what these kids can do when they have a reason to do it,” he said. A group of teachers said in an anonymous letter to the board that Ford’s comments were “demeaning” and “filled with untruths.”
In a formal statement on Thursday, the board said some of Ford’s words represented “a completely inaccurate portrayal of our students, our school and the community in which the school is located.” Ford declined to either defend or retract his comments. Asked whether he regrets them, he said, “I love that school, I love the kids, the teachers, the parents. I always have.” He said “the parents, the kids, and the administration speak for themselves.”
According to Miller, who has coached at Don Bosco for two seasons since his return from the Missouri university where he played on scholarship, some of Ford’s comments were indeed misleading. “I know a lot of the players personally, and I don’t know of any of them that are in gangs. There may be, may be, one or two players out of like 50 kids that have some type of home issue. But as far as the majority of the team, I wouldn’t say that’s true,” he said.
Miller also disagreed with Ford’s blanket assertion that Don Bosco players would not attend school if not for football. “For the majority, I’d say that’s not true,” he said. “That’s probably just a few exceptional players. But that’s probably true on any team, especially dealing with the numbers that we deal with.” Parents say the school has improved significantly in the past five years under principal Ugo Rossi. Miller, a Star athlete of the week in 2002, said Don Bosco was not violent even when he attended. But he said Ford is probably speaking generally of “the overall picture” since he became involved with the school in 2001.
“Some people just kind of take it the wrong way, thinking he’s trying to bring the school down,” Miller said. “But he’s always in a good heart, right?” Ford has devoted hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to the football program, which he resurrected after he was told he was unwelcome to continue coaching at a school in North York in 2001 after a confrontation with a player. To the dismay of most councillors, he leaves work nearly every weekday afternoon in the fall to coach practice, and he has controversially skipped out of council meetings for a game and a scrimmage.
Ford, Miller said, has used his own money to buy equipment, taken players out to eat and to Argonauts games, helped to arrange academic tutoring, and assisted with personal problems. In 2007, according to The Lawyers Weekly, the law-and-order conservative even testified as a character witness at the sentencing hearing for a former player who was convicted of using a sawed-off shotgun to rob a taxi driver. Ford conceded that he did not know much about the player away from football, but he said, “I sort of have a soft spot in my heart for him.”
The school board said it is reviewing Ford’s comments and will “determine an appropriate course of action that ensures a positive learning environment for our students and promotes student achievement and well-being.”
With even Toronto City Councillor Michael Thompson quoted as saying Ford’s intentions are good and his cause “laudable, don't the few remaining Ford detractors see the folly of their constant attacks on an equipment fund for disadvantaged youth, the corner-stone of the Ford Foundation? It's hardly a secret that individuals who give their most precious asset...their time are held in high esteem by the public. Organizations, like Big Brothers will tell you that mentored boys do better in school, in work and in life!
Jerome Miller is quoted as saying that Mayor Ford 'does do a whole lot, more than people see, behind closed doors for these kids. Helps them out if they need any help, for any reason at all. He’s the first one that will be there for them." Is Ford destined to turn into the next Trudeau, lauded by friend and foe alike? Why is that those who don't understand or appreciate generosity by those with a kind heart continue to propagate the Ford mystique? You would think these folks would be taking the opposite tack....but they aren't! Why?
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