When you look at Tony Gonzalez today, you probably don’t think anyone in their right mind ever would have bullied or picked on him growing up. But, as a USA Network Documentary will show this week, Gonzalez was hardly invisible to those looking for a victim.
Gonzalez, along with Pittsburgh wide receiver Hines Ward, former Colts head coach Tony Dungy and New Orleans tight end Jimmy Graham, all share their incredible stories of rising above bigotry and hatred as they touch the lives of children currently faced with the same daily struggles in “NFL Characters Unite.”
The show is set to begin airing at 7 p.m. ET Friday on USA Network.
Per the USA Network “NFL Characters Unite” webpage: 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 … 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.
“It got so bad that I wouldn’t go outside,” Gonzalez said in the show’s extended trailer, which can be viewed here. “Literally, every single day two bullies would be at my school waiting for me.”
Chronicled in the show, Gonzalez brings a kid dealing with hatred and intolerance named Jonathan to a local YMCA to raise his self-esteem, help him grow and make some new friends. Along the way, Gonzalez shares his own story of being bullied and picked on to show Jonathan that he’s not alone.
Read more about the episode here. View the show’s short trailer below.