Snoop Dogg Uses Fame to Lure Youth Football Players
Rapper Snoop Dogg is luring players to his youth football league by offering them perks that would get a Division I college football program on probation.
Rapper Clears the Field (LAT, Aug. 18)
Bullet: Snoop Dogg uses a tricked-out bus and star power to lure kids to his new league. Some say he’s made an end run around existing teams.
The sun is setting a burnished orange, and three groups of children jog across the football field in their pads and helmets to the sideline. It’s quitting time on a pleasant summer evening, no school for a while yet, but 10-year-old Xavier Bernal isn’t grinning. For more than four decades, this field at Rowland High School in Rowland Heights has teemed with football players ages 5 to 14, so many jostling Rowland Raiders that each of the program’s age divisions overran the next. But last year’s nine squads have dwindled to three, and the usually robust cheerleading squad has gone from 80 girls to nine.
To hear Xavier tell it, blame falls squarely on the youth football league’s most famous and controversial former coach. “I’m mad at Coach Snoop,” he says. “He was so cool; he told me to play my heart out and to play everything I’ve got. But now I just want to ask him, why did he take all our players?” Walking with Xavier toward the parking lot, parents and coaches describe rapper Snoop Dogg as a modern-day Pied Piper luring football players with his song “Drop It Like It’s Hot” blasting from a school bus pimped out with enough bass, TV screens and gadgetry to persuade any kid to sell out the old for the new.
Snoop rocked the youth football world two years ago when he volunteered as a Rowland Raiders “daddy coach,” and then again last month when he broke from the franchise to start his own conference. The Raiders aren’t the only team in the Orange County Junior All-American Football Conference to feel the screws; Long Beach and Compton teams, also in competition with Snoop’s new league, report similar hemorrhaging. And as Snoop talks of expanding the Snoop Youth Football League beyond its initial eight Southern California chapters, parents and coaches in the old conference accuse him and his agents of mounting a campaign of sabotage and misinformation.
Snoop, whose real name is Calvin Broadus, also has deep roots in youth football. He remembers the life lessons he learned while playing for the Long Beach Poly Junior Jackrabbits. “It taught me how to work with other kids,” he says, “how to have a relationship, how to learn. My coach taught me about religion as well as football, about keeping God in everything we did.”
So two years ago, with Snoop’s two boys old enough to play league ball, he enrolled them in the Rowland Raiders program, signed on as an offensive coordinator and weathered the media hullabaloo that ensued. League Commissioner Bob Barna received “some e-mails from parents, saying, ‘How dare you let somebody like that be with our youth?’ ” Barna says. “But did he bring anything negative? No. He acted like a dad.”
Last year’s Rowland Raiders team of 8- to 10-year-olds, with Snoop as offensive and defensive coordinator and his older son playing quarterback, steamrolled through the season unbeaten. At the team’s awards banquet, the coach gave each player a DVD of team games with a special Snoop Dogg tribute to the Raiders bumping in the background.
Nobody accuses Snoop of being a derelict coach; far from it. Most grumblers say that Snoop was overly generous and doted on his team, giving them new jerseys, letterman jackets, trophies and championship rings, even though chapter rules stipulate that if any team gets new equipment, every team does, Romero says. “After he won his first league championship game, he went out and bought scooters for everybody,” Romero says. “He never said anything to the league, never asked permission. I had parents calling me all the time, asking, ‘How come Snoop Dogg’s team is getting this?’ “
Lavishing expensive gifts on kids to gain advantge in youth league football strikes me as unseemly. Still, it appears that Broadus’ heart is in the right place. And he is apparently not violating the letter or spirit of league rules.
Many of these kids need a father figure and to feel special. My main concern is that this will only reinforce the message that the only way for a poor black kid to get ahead is to excel in sports. There just aren’t enough professional sports gigs for all of them.
via OTB columnist Robert Tagorda, who is on sabbatical