NFL Linebacker On Players Who Charge For Camps: ‘Y’all Suckers’
He's not wrong
If you happen to be fortunate enough to live in a city that hosts an NFL team or is the birthplace/hometown of a current pro, you’ve probably stumbled across a notice announcing some NFL player or another will be hosting a skills camp. You know, for kids.
This player will often require that the attendees cough up a fee. Not because he wants to make a few bucks, but rather to cover any insurance costs and the attendant expenses of event-specific t-shirts, equipment, hiring various organizers, and booking the location, or so most of the players and camps claim. Again, you know, for kids.
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Telvin Smith hosted such a camp last year for the first time at his old high school in Valdosta, Georgia, but he didn’t charge a cent.
In an Instagram video posted on Wednesday, Smith called out his NFL colleagues who do charge for their camps. “Y’all, suckers, bro,” he said. “That ain’t even cool on any level.”
Smith’s account is locked, but one helpful fan from Smith’s alma mater grabbed the video and offered it up to the general public.
As things got feisty in the comments, with many an Instagram user defending the fees as part of the cost of doing business, Smith got mad.
“NFL covers ALL that with insurance!!!!” he wrote in response to @team_nix. “That’s why you have to go through them before you can put on anything!!! & it’s not free because players KNOW pple will pay because the kids THINK they gettin sum special training, when in reality they ain’t doin NOTHIN they can’t look up on YouTube and do in they front yard!!!
“It’s pple like you sayin that that’s gone continue to let pple think it’s ok,” Smith continued. But I tell you what..watch my camp!!!! We have food, give tshirts, bags with lil gifts in it & then the kids get trophies and signed autographs…and ALL that is either DONATED, or taken care of in GRANTS from the NFL..or I PAY OUT MY OWN POCKET!!!!”
On Thursday, ESPN got Smith on the phone to see if he wanted to elaborate. He did.
“I keep saying robbing these kids because I feel that’s what we’re doing,” said Smith. “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 clarified that he was only referring to single-day events which serve as little more than a glorified meet-and-greet, and not a multi-day event which may require lodging. But he also pointed out that the NFL makes grants available to help defray expenses and the league will highlight camps like these, both paid and unpaid, when hyping the league’s charitable efforts, as well as its “Play 60” series, which is nominally a PSA touting the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle, but really boils down to a marketing campaign for the NFL itself, and often features both athletes and team personnel.
Further, Smith said he was able to rally community groups to donate items like food and water to his camp, which he says attracted 500 participants and will return again this summer, still without an attached price tag.
As ESPN noted, Smith isn’t the only NFL player to host a free camp. Blake Bortles, A.J. McCarron, Jaquiski Tartt, and the Pouncey twins do, as does Michael Bennett, who took Stephen Curry to task last year for charging $2,000 for his camp, demanding that any athlete ensure that the funds earned were rerouted to needed local charities and/or the community.
Others, however, haven’t the followed Bennett and Smith’s lead. For example, four Denver Broncos hosted multi-day events during the 2016 offseason, with the cost ranging from $199 to $249 per attendee. (Safety T.J. Ward’s camp was free.)
According to Smith, “That’s wrong. You’re not giving back to the community. You’re taking from the community.”