July 24, 2010

Snoop Dogg brings league to Chicago

Rap star and entertainment mogul Snoop Dogg announced Friday his youth football league will open a chapter in Chicago next year.

If the league is anything like the founding chapter he started in his native Los Angeles in 2005, it will include volunteers who have criminal records for weapons and drug charges.

And it will be a rousing success that helps rebuild a community.

"The only way we can stop this violence here in Chicago is if we become one team," Snoop Dogg, whose given name is Calvin Broadus, said while hosting a clinic for roughly 200 kids in the Chicago Housing Authority.

"I'm bringing football out here so they can take their energy, their anger and their attitude and put it in the right source of environment, which is the football field," he said.

"(I want to help kids) become team and to become unified and become organized and work with each other as opposed to working against each other.

Broadus, a former high school quarterback who has enjoyed coaching his own children in the game, started his league in Los Angeles when he realized that much of the inner city did not have organized football for boys aged 5 to 13.

The league was founded with $1 million of his money.

Over the years, Broadus' financial commitment has grown with the league, which had over 2,500 kids enrolled last fall, according to a story by the Associated Press that ran in part on RivalsHigh.

Its success - hailed by kids, parents and high school and community leaders - has helped keep youngsters out of trouble (and gangs) and helped many reconnect with their fathers and other strong role models.

"My football league is catered to every kid who is at risk and wants to play football and wants to get out of the negative or the norm that they are accustomed to being brought up around," Broadus said.

Officials in Chicago - one of many cities interested in starting a Snoop Dogg League - are hopeful the league can do just that.

Crystal Brown Black, executive director of Windows of Opportunity, the Chicago Housing Authority's nonprofit affiliate, told NBC Chicago that Broadus' efforts are powerful.

"This allows them to see the artist giving back to the community," she said. "Their ability to go onto a field and learn techniques in football is kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

One that also could change the face of high school sports in Illinois.

His league in Southern California helped build Los Angeles (Calif.) Crenshaw High into a football player.

The school, never known for football, won 14 games last year before losing in a CIF bowl game. Crenshaw, ranked as high No. 18 during the season, finished the year ranked No. 42 in the RivalsHigh Top 100 rankings.

Its star player, running back De'Anthony Thomas, is rated as the No. 5 player in the Rivals.com Top 250 rankings for the Class of 2011, and already has committed to play at nearby power Southern Cal.

Thomas was one of nine players on last year's Crenshaw team that grew up playing Snoop Dogg football.

"It is more of an advantage to have kids who played in the Snoop Dogg league," Crenshaw coach Robert Garrett told the Associated Press last fall. "They also have the experience, the fundamentals and the attitude that guys who started from scratch don't have."

The league, however, is not about state titles and scholarships, it's about building a communities. That was Broadus' biggest message in Chicago.

"I realize there's a problem here and I'm trying to become the solution," he said.


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