In NFL Characters Unite, Gonzalez brings Jonathan to a local YMCA to help him to regain his confidence, break out of his shell and make new friends. Gonzalez shares his own story with Jonathan to let him know that he is not alone in these experiences and to show him that he can rise above the discrimination.
Since the YMCA is a center where kids of all backgrounds come together to make friends and engage in all kind of activities, it seemed the perfect place for Gonzalez to bring Jonathan. He asked Jonathan to conquer a rock-climbing wall and the activity forced Jonathan to face two of his greatest fears; heights and meeting new people. With the help of an instructor and a group of peers, Jonathan not only climbed to the top of the wall more than once, but he also instructed the others on how to reach the top. By the end of the day, Jonathan felt revitalized, and said he would no longer be afraid of leaving his house.
Tony Gonzalez,Atlanta Falcons
Tony Gonzalez grew up in a multi-cultural area of California, without any color or race divides, and where everyone was exceedingly tolerant. As he reached middle school his family moved to Huntington Beach, CA., aka “surf city.” As a part of Orange County, Huntington Beach is a community of predominantly white conservatives and it was here that things took a turn for Gonzalez. Suddenly, his race became an issue and he was subjected to overt racism. Kids started calling him the “n” word, “spic,” “monkey” and other unspeakable racial slurs. The name-calling became a constant part of his daily life. It became so bad that Gonzalez began to hide a skateboard outside of his classroom, to ensure a quick getaway once classes ended and he would be free of his bullies.
The bullying eventually turned physical, when kids begun to throw things at him, push and hit him. One day when a group of bullies were chasing after him, Gonzalez became so frightened that he hid behind dumpsters, where his mother came to find him and it was in that moment that things changed. Gonzalez saw the disappointment in his mother’s eyes, and vowed to never hide from anyone or anything again. From that point on, Gonzalez took a stand for himself and his ethnicity.
Twelve-year-old Jonathan Allen shares a similar story. Growing up in Washington, DC and Arizona, they were surrounded by people of all different backgrounds. His family lived in an educated community, where color was not an issue, but it was after they moved to a suburb of Atlanta that things began to change for Jonathan. Three Caucasian boys began to relentlessly harass him by calling him “monkey,” the “n“ word and every other name they could think of to hurt him. He was physically assaulted on several occasions, and the verbal assault was constant. Jonathan and his parents went to his teachers, principal and even the school board, but no one stepped in to protect him. Eventually, the bullying got so bad that Jonathan told his mother he no longer felt safe at school. His parents moved the family 50 miles away to another school district to protect their son. Although he no longer faces his bullies, Jonathan is still affected by what happened to him and is afraid to make friends as he lives in fear that they will turn on him.