In early September, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan shared an inspiring story to a group of Boy Scouts and their supporters about his days as an Eagle Scout growing up in Pakistan in the 1960s. Khan talked about a 6,000-mile, roundtrip journey to Greece for a worldwide scouting jamboree, sharing both the humor of being sea sick after crossing the Mediterranean and the determination of having to get there largely by hitching rides.
He then finished by talking about the qualities and virtues espoused by scouting and how they helped guide him once he got to the United States at age 16 and later became a billionaire. This week, Khan topped all of that by having the Jaguars promise a $100,000 matching donation to the Boy Scouts of America North Florida Council.
As a father of an Eagle Scout and another son who hopes to get there, I deeply appreciate Khan's generosity. But I have one request:
Take your money back.
Likewise, to other NFL figures who support Boy Scouts, such as Peyton Manning with his Peyback Foundation, I ask that you withhold your money from the organization. I have given thousands of dollars to scouting over the years. But I'm withholding mine until Ryan Andresen gets his Eagle Scout award.
Andresen, who turned 18 on Monday, made national news last week when the Boys Scouts denied him the organization's highest honor for a youth. Andresen, who lives in Northern California and was scheduled to appear on the Ellen Degeneres Show on Thursday, completed his Eagle project. But he was denied the award because he also publicly admitted he's gay.
"For a kid who has been working this long, who has hit all the benchmarks and paid his dues all those years to achieve something and have it denied based on sexuality is just wrong," said Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, who is a proponent of legalizing gay marriage.
The issue of homosexuality in scouting is well known. The organization has a long-standing policy of not accepting gay adult leaders and extends that policy to youth, although that part of the policy seemed like window-dressing in an organization where eligibility goes from age six to 18.
That is until Andresen, whose mother Karen has started a petition supporting Ryan's efforts to receive his Eagle award, made his journey to self-discovery in July and said he was gay. But long before that, Andresen was a scout. He has spent 12 years learning all the ways of scouting, from the corny days of being a Tiger Cub to learning the deeper meaning of the scout law and oath.
Yet in the end, an organization that claims in the first two words of its law that it is about being "trustworthy" and "loyal" turned its back on a child when he deserved to be honored. The Eagle Scout award is a life-changing achievement. For every thousand kids who join the scouts, only one makes it all the way to Eagle. It is a testimony to dedication to one's self and, more important, to one's community.
To take that away is reprehensible and disgusting. I uncomfortably understand the ban on gay adult leaders. But when it comes to pulling support from a child – and Andresen was just a kid all those years in scouting – who has done everything asked of him and been completely honest along the way – sorry, you lost me on that one.
"Until this country stands up and says it's not OK to discriminate against the LGBT [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] community, these types of things are going to continue," Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo wrote in a text.
I couldn't agree more and I hope others in the NFL agree. More importantly, I hope the Boy Scouts do the right thing.
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