Playing Without a Helmet

I loved football. I remember clearly the day I signed up to play the game. Nothing happened that was that extraordinary except I was verbally abused. My step father at the time made fun of me and called me gay because in line for the sign ups I held my hands behind my back. My years of little league football were not marked by my triumphs on the field or the fun I had but by the fact that I was not a good enough athlete to be on the field with the others. There was a particular practice I remember in the heat of August, a practice I will never forget. My mom had washed the pads inside my helmet and had forgotten to put them back in the next day. With all of the emphasis being put on player safety now it seems incredible that I would risk my mental health and practice football in a helmet with no pads but that is what my stepfather made me do. I told him it hurt and I didn’t want to do it but he called me a pussy and told me to get back on the field. My head coach, like my step dad was a member of the Little Rock police department and didn’t care about the pain that I was in. I tried wearing cloth around my head to limit the impact from the constant hitting I was receiving and I was called a faggot. You might think such a term was reserved for children teasing another child but you are wrong. I was called a faggot both by my head coach and by my step father for wearing something to protect my head. My mom never knew about the abuse that was inflicted upon me and in retrospect I don’ t know how she could have known. Why don’t I trust law enforcement? Because of these two men who made me feel like a criminal for trying to protect my head.

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