Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith doesn’t believe that kids should have to pay to attend youth football camps run by NFL players.
Smith doesn’t charge a fee for his camp and said in a short video on Instagram that players who do charge a fee, even a nominal one, have lost touch with what he called the “humble gratitude” that allowed them to reach the NFL.
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Smith told Michael DiRocco of ESPN that he felt players charging for youth camps are essentially robbing the community.
“I keep saying robbing these kids because I feel that’s what we’re doing,” Smith said. “We’re in the NFL. We’re in a multibillion corporation. You can write that off on your taxes, but you’re charging these kids? There’s no part of it that’s right.
“Your heart’s not in the right direction when you’re doing that.”
Smith wanted to be clear that he wasn’t calling out any specific player and that he wanted to make sure people understood he isn’t talking about the multiday or overnight intense instructional camps. Camps such as those, which require the campers to be housed and fed, can cost close to nearly $1,000 per camper. Specialty companies run many of those types of camps, which bear the names of the sponsoring players.
Smith said he’s talking about the camps that usually last three to four hours, where it’s more about the experience of meeting an NFL player than learning football skills. Those camps should be free, Smith said, and there are ways to defray the cost. NFL players can apply for $1,000-$4,000 grants from the National Football League Foundation to help fund their camps. In addition, players are able to secure sponsors to help cover costs, such as local restaurants to provide lunches and drinks.
Smith said he did that last year for his first camp in his hometown of Valdosta, Georgia, in which he said he had more than 500 kids show up. He’s finalizing details for this year’s camp to be held in mid-June.
“Guys can reach out to the community and they’ll donate food, they’ll donate money, they’ll donate water,” Smith said. “We had so many things donated we had so much left over.
“… That’s how I know it can be done. I had to buy extra shirts. But I’m willing to do that because we’re buying these designer clothes and cars and jewelry and then you can’t give $600 or $2,000 extra out of your pocket to make sure a couple extra kids come to your camp? I’m going to make sure I’ve got that.”
Smith said athletes have a responsibility to give back to the community and there are a lot of kids who can’t afford to pay to attend a camp.
“That’s wrong,” Smith said. “You’re not giving back to the community. You’re taking from the community.
“You’ve got to remember where you came from at the end of the day. C’mon, man, stop thinking we’re more than what we are.”