Playing in My First Super Bowl, With the Diversity Crisis at UCLA on My Mind

It has been almost ten years since I was here in Miami, playing for the UCLA Bruins, as we were trying to remain undefeated and #1 in the country. In two days, I will be playing in my first Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears, in a history-making game with two African-American head coaches. Back in 1998, while preparing for the game against the University of Miami, I was thinking a lot about what was happening on my Westwood campus with the passing of Proposition 209, which ended affirmative action in the state of California. Now as a Chicago Bear, heading into the biggest game of my life, I am still concerned about what is happening on my Westwood campus, because this year there were only 96 African-American students enrolled in the Freshman class of 5000 -- 2%. Now, don't get me wrong, I am completely focused on this game and plan on bringing the Lombardi trophy back to the city of Chicago, but when the game is over, this issue is not going to go away.

So, I have made a call to all of my UCLA friends who are privileged to be playing professional sports, and I have asked them to join me in a public awareness campaign that we call, "We Should Not Be the Only Ones." I, and the other athletes who have joined me, think we should not be the only ones to get an education, because we can perform well on a field or on a court. We have little interest in politics, but we have a large interest in human rights. It should be a simple right for a young person of color in this country to have access to higher public education. Let's start recruiting students, the way they recruited me and the rest of my friends, so we don't get to a point where every black student on campus is an athlete.

Yesterday morning, J.A. Adande of the Los Angeles Times wrote an article that launched our campaign. Our journey begins....

Brendon Ayanbadejo
Chicago Bears (UCLA 99')