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Family of Martin Luther King Jr. aligns with NFL to carry on ‘dream’

TAMPA — Speaking in a Raymond James Stadium interview room on what would have been his father’s 95th birthday, Martin Luther King III noted his dad possessed some athletic chops known by few: football player, basketball player, even bike rider.

“He could jump super high,” King said.

His legacy is attempting a quantum leap.

The second-oldest of the civil rights champion’s four children, King’s appearance at Monday night’s NFC Wild-Card Game coincided with the NFL’s announcement it is making a five-year commitment to “Realizing the Dream.” A collaboration between the Martin Luther King III Foundation and the platform Legacy+, the initiative calls for 100 million hours of service by Jan. 15, 2029 — Dr. King’s 100th birthday.

“And I believe we’ll be a much better nation after that, and it will help us get closer to realizing the dream,” King said. “It’s really just about making the world better for all of God’s children.”

King was joined at midfield by wife Arndrea Waters King and 15-year-old daughter Yolanda Renee King for the pregame coin toss. It marked the first time the family joined in the commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day at an NFL contest.

King suggested the alliance with the NFL is natural because of sports’ unifying quality.

“Certainly (the elder King) wanted to eradicate what he defined were the triple evils: poverty, racism and violence,” King said before the game to a room of reporters and local dignitaries, including Tampa mayor Jane Castor and former mayor Pam Iorio.

“But he also believed in civility and being together, and we could disagree without being disagreeable. Unfortunately, our nation is at a divided point. That’s sort of why football games and championships are so important, because they bring people together, from every walk of life. It does not matter what you believe.”

The NFL indicated all its teams will participate in the “Realizing the Dream” call to community service, which also will aim to mobilize children, educators and communities nationally and globally for acts of service.

“I know what happens when good people come together,” Arndrea Waters King said.

“This is not something that is just theoretical. So what we really believe is that by five years of coming together, serving together, that we really will be closer to realizing the dream. We really will build that table of brotherhood and sisterhood with this initiative.”

Contact Joey Knight at jknight@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.

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