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‘Can’t Breathe’ Is Making It Impossible For Kids To Live

Our fixation on death comes with a heavy price tag. It’s costing us our life. For young people, it’s costing them their future.

“I Can’t Breathe” is morphing into “They Can’t Live.” 

The California Interscholastic Federation announced on Monday it will delay its high school fall sports season until January. Other states will surely follow the lead of The Golden State. On the surface, given the alleged surging Coronavirus positive tests, the decision is appropriate and responsible.

But is it?

The consequence of pervasive secular values is the prioritization of death over life.  As a nation, we’ve seemingly decided the avoidance of death is more important than the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

For people who do not believe in the afterlife, fear of death wields total control over decision-making. America’s founders, flawed as they were, believed they answered to a Higher Power and in the concept of heaven and hell.  They prioritized life over death because their religious faith softened the consequence of death on this earth.

Collectively we no longer believe that. We have a death obsession. There is no freedom we will not sacrifice in pursuit of avoiding death. A nation that fought a revolutionary war over taxation without representation and an even bloodier civil war over the abolishment of slavery has spent four months afraid to breathe and cowering at home fearful of a virus with a 99 percent recovery rate.

That is not written to suggest we take a cavalier approach to COVID-19. It’s written to make us question our obsession with death. 

For nearly two months, we have put more time, energy and focus on the expired lives of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks than we have the future of our youth. Risking your health protesting and advocating for George Floyd places you on the right side of a history that will be written by the self-appointed. 

The expansion of American freedom, from the Civil War to Civil Rights, had traditionally been won by the men and women concerned with being on the right side of God. 

We now wet our fingers, hold them in the air and move at the whim of social media trends. We serve death, not life. We value the old more than the young, the people nearest death over the ones just starting their journey. We used to sacrifice our lives to leave the next generation a better world. We’ve lost that resolve.

Fear-based decision-making is destroying the future of our youth. We can’t keep kids locked in homes, socially distanced indefinitely. The delay and potential cancellation of fall sports will have a devastating impact on young people.

The year 2020 is a nationwide Hurricane Katrina, and the poor will once again pay a disproportionate price for the politically-driven decisions of elites. 

In 1984, at age 17, I lived with my dad in a 400-square-foot, one-bedroom apartment on the eastside of Indianapolis. We were poor. Delinquent taxes forced the closure of my dad’s tavern, Jimmy’s J-Bar-J. My dad earned $300 a week plus tips working as a bartender for a friend. 

I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like now had a global health crisis wiped out my senior year of high school, had I been trapped inside that tiny apartment for months with my dad. 

I don’t mean to diminish the life of George Floyd or the handful of other victims of criminal police misconduct, but what kind of sick, narcissistic country hyper-focuses on justice for a dead man when the lives of millions of kids are being destroyed?

Over the weekend, I chatted with a couple of high school football coaches in my hometown, Warren Central’s Jayson West and Ben Davis’ Jason Simmons. I played at Warren Central. We won the Big School state championship in 1984, and I earned a football scholarship to Ball State University. The scholarship changed my life. 

Warren Central is a nationally-ranked powerhouse. We routinely send a dozen or so players a year off to play college football at some level. The same is true for Ben Davis. Both programs are filled with poor black kids from single-parent homes. The schools provide free breakfast and lunch to all of their students.

Canceling and/or delaying school and sports means a bit more to kids attending Warren Central and Ben Davis.  

“I’m worried about video-game dependency,” West told me. “That’s their platform. That’s their way of socially engaging. They’re not engaging, they’re not moving around. Our kids don’t have gym memberships or gyms in their homes or garages.”

Indianapolis schools shut down in March like the rest of the country. Two weeks ago, the Indiana High School Athletic Association approved the resumption of organized workouts. There has been no concrete decision on when fall sports will start. 

“It’s been great getting back with our kids,” Simmons said. “We’ve had kids literally working out at home lifting vacuum cleaners and buckets of water. But for our kids, it’s bigger than football. If we don’t reopen the schools, the education gap is only going to grow. The kids with both parents and money will survive this. Our kids have to have this opportunity.”

The unintended consequence of fear is death, the death of opportunity. 

We’re killing the future of kids with our cultural obsession with death. Violently, irrationally and emotionally avenging the deaths of George Floyd and a few other ex-felons who died arguing with or resisting police will have long-lasting repercussions.  

Numerous college and high school coaches have told me that the top priority in recruiting is the family background of a prospect. “Fit” is a buzzword for “nuclear family.”  

Coaches have long feared athletes who are difficult to control. Social media and the haphazard racial justice sought via social media have exacerbated that fear. Kids from single-parent homes require more oversight. They’re less likely to easily conform. 

The can’t-miss, 4- and 5-star prospects will be fine. But the opportunities for the marginal recruit from a tough background are shrinking rapidly. We don’t “fit” the profile.

I wouldn’t recruit Jason Whitlock in this era. If I had a Twitter feed at age 20, all of my coaches would’ve been fired.

Colin Kaepernick and all of his disciples have elevated their brands and the reputations of dead heroes George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Rayshard Brooks. 

When are we going to resume our fight for the living? To do that, we must first conquer our fear of death and abandon our intense focus on the dead.

They can’t live if we don’t allow them to breathe… life.

If you want Jason Whitlock to appear on your radio show or podcast, contact Gary@outkick.com.

Written by Jason Whitlock

Jason Whitlock is a longtime sports writer, TV personality, radio host, podcaster and the newest member of the Outkick family.
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32 Comments

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  1. Hey Jason,
    It’s very easy to hear and read how heartfelt your thoughts and words are. I don’t blow smoke, but if somehow your essay found its way to as many college coaches in as many divisions as possible it would be a great thing for kids all over our country!!!
    Rick

  2. It’s amazing what people will willfully ignore in order to make themselves feel better. Who cares about blacks killing one another in democrat-controlled cities? We’ll riot and loot when a cop kills a black man, justifiably or not. Who cares that the UN has admitted, among many others, that the response to the virus will cause more deaths than the virus itself and adversely affect already poor populations worldwide, and grow the numbers of those impoverished groups? We have to avoid the 99.98% survival rate virus – and try to economically tank Trump in the process! I’m sick of listening to people wax on about ‘we should try to save lives’ when more will be ended because of said measures to ‘save lives’.

  3. Jason, I agree with everything you said, and what you said about fixating on tragic deaths of a few men resonates particularly strongly with me. Today, July 21st, in our country of over 320 million people, it is absolutely impossible that there will not be pain and heartache somewhere. In a country of 320 million people, it is absolutely impossible that 100% of us will act as law abiding citizens and that that not a single solitary “injustice” will be done. ………But, of course, the Jemele Hill’s of the world (along with soulless-liberal-billionaire-elitists who run media) will seek out and find the worst example of humanity that they possibly can, to convince us we must tear our country down. Rather than using life’s tragedies and obstacles to make us stronger TOGETHER, they will try to manipulate us into believing that life is not worth living… Rather than telling the truth that for every George Floyd there is a white Tony Timpa being murdered in the exact same manner, they will convince “working-class” citizens to tear down neighborhoods while the elites get rich……Jason, I am with you as a reader of OutKick who will continue to support truth by convincing others to sign up with OutKick……I am also with you as a human being who believes in God and who believes that our life’s experience, and the struggles we go through TOGETHER, has a higher purpose than “likes” and “relevancy” on social media.

  4. We can’t continue to halt everything and burn down cities when an unfortunate or even criminal act is committed by law enforcement. The truth is the sample of one is horrific but the total number of unarmed citizens killed by police will likely not decline. The number of guns, police interactions, and arrests in this country suggest that the number is very small. Also consider that police are getting vilified in all media so less people will become cops, while many are retiring. When fewer people get into the field, lower quality candidates will get a chance. Citizens will be dealing with lower quality, less experienced, and thanks to budget cuts, a more poorly trained police force. That formula will certainly make things worse and incidents like the ones you mention will increase.

  5. Jason… an investigation (journalistic) is needed regarding a major media publication publishing the location of a residence so as to intimidate and cause injury…would be greatly interested in your opinion … Sincerely ❤️🇺🇸🐻

  6. Talking about ripping out your heart-strings…this on did it for me. It truly saddens me that the youth of the great country suffer so and there never seems to be anyway out. Sports and their “sports family” is all they have sometimes. I was raised by a single mother and had two siblings. I remember my mom working two jobs. In the 70’s and 80’s we were termed “latch-key” kids. I had good friend whose Dad took me to my pee-wee football games and also to little league baseball. But I grew up in a small town, never a big city. I do not want to call out just Democrats for doing such a horrible disaster in big cities, but I also put the blame on George W Bush politics which “pushed” for International Trade (especially China). Big companies left and do did the nuclear family. I know the deterioration of big cities started well before the Bush administration, but the Obama administration furthered the growth of China and jobs overseas. As Americans we initially championed Free Trade, but now they prove to be a disaster.
    It breaks my heart these kids have possibly nothing to look forward to and guide them. It seems all the DEMS want to do is “hold them hostage” to the same hostile system they put them in – “NO HOPE” and CRUSHED DREAMS”!

    • Jason, I became a VIP for you and Travis. You guys are doing some amazing stuff. I hope you get more views. Your articles are a favorite of mine to read because they are so good, and have powerful words. Not to mention, you drop some thermonuclear truth detonations on Karens and other SJWs and Leftists. Keep it up. I am a fan.

  7. Jason. A very interesting take here. Looking at the myriad of destructive wars in the 20th Century, one can say that the world’s fear of death, particularly in the First World, has likely resulted in less war and certainly an aversion to total war. Citizens simply aren’t willing to sacrifice in the name of country. This is a good thing.

    There are also arguments to be made that this fear of death has stunted technical innovation because people are more averse to risk. Michael Hanlon made this argument in Aeon in late 2014. https://aeon.co/essays/has-progress-in-science-and-technology-come-to-a-halt

    The situation with COVID is simply a reflection of this risk aversion. I’m just pointing out there are positives as well as negatives to this reality.

    • Robert,

      There are a couple of additional historical factors at work here. First is that the advance of medical sciences has reduced childhood mortality and mortality from illness overall substantially. It has also extended life expectancy well beyond what it was historically. So, we are much less used to death in our lives. For people 100 years ago death was an ever present fact of life. Additionally, the advent of birth control and the affluence of American society has led to a significant reduction in family size. In the 19th century it was not unusual for a man and wife to produce nine or ten children. Referencing the above, it was fully expected that a number of them would not live to adulthood. Today a family with three children is considered large.

      The upshot of all this is that for most of society (at least that part of it calling the shots) each child has become more precious because we have fewer of them, and our expectation is now that each one of them will live to adulthood. Once in adulthood, the expectation is that each and every illness can be cured and every accident avoided since we have done so well at this historically.

      The reason I say that this holds true for most of society is that the attitude expressed in the current push to cancel school, sports and other social activities in the interest of safety is in stark contrast to the seeming lack of interest in protecting urban (read minority) youth from the violence that is part of their lives every day, not just during a pandemic. In fact, we seem to be going in the opposite direction with respect to our cities. I doubt that our leaders across the board sense the cognitive dissonance is these divergent attitudes.

    • I partially agree with you Robert, but disagree with it being a ‘good thing’ to not be willing to sacrifice in the name of country. First world issues have first world solutions often. I’m not sure also, that the ‘citizens’ in question are actually just “American” citizens… to me, fear of death is 2 tiered: you fear the obvious things that you would as any normal human (loss of human experiences), you fear that “this is it for your existence”…those of faith disregard my second tier and embrace their future with God in Heaven

  8. Awesome article! I’m a varsity football coach in Central New York and we’re not cleared to have any type of workout. State guidelines will likely be impossible to attain for fall play. Politics over science in Cuomo’s kingdom. These policies are child abuse plain and simple. Speak up America before it’s too late.

  9. This fear of death phenomenon is pervasive. It shows up in the “safety culture” at work, the huge life insurance industry, trying to tear down football, military strategy etc. We are convinced is better to be alive and safe than to live a great life. Afterall, the only thing you have is your health…

    Unfortunately, the pendulum has swung too far. You nailed it, Jason.

  10. I was watching an old episode of Vikings recently. Ivar hides with his warriors in the sewers, driving all the rats to the surface, before leading a sneak attack on the duped Christians. COVID and the race hustling post-George Floyd has driven the rats into plain sight. Dems and teachers unions are promoting this stay-at-home agenda, given breath by the media, regardless of what it means for children of all ages. The kids are just pawns in the hands of these greasy-souled cretins. The Christian soldiers got slaughtered in the episode, by the way.

  11. Jason. Well stated. I consider you to still be a Hoosier and this essay should be read by everyone. I am a NCHS graduate and as you probably know Washington Township in Indianapolis has cancelled fall sports. My heart aches for these kids and their families. Thanks for using the word ‘alleged’ when describing ‘case’ increase. I subscribed this morning because Outkick is worthy of support. I wish you all the success that comes your way.

  12. Jason Witlock is the second-bravest man I know of. The first is a guy in my church who, as a single parent, faces life with massive physical challenges that are the result of a brain aneurysm. Both men face life with joy and courage trying to help others even though a lot of folks tell them it is useless to try. I love Jason’s clear thinking and his willingness to speak truth into a world that hates both truth and the God who ultimately defines it. Keep up the great work, Jason. You are right on target! You make Booker T. Washington proud by being the best at what you do!

  13. Having worked first-hand with the great dads, uncles and single mom-coaches in NY’s ‘neighborhoods’ your written words hang in the air like clear gigantic bubbles. The bubbles wait like targets for anyone try and burst them. But they can’t be burst.

    They can’t be burst because your words true throughout American urban and suburban ‘neighborhoods’. They’re filled with young American dreams where sport is much bigger than the games of three-card monty being run by soft public school leaders and their elected bosses. Thanks Jason

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