Miami New Times. This week, Luke gives the Dolphins a lesson in youth football
As the 2012 football season winds to a close, with Miami-Dade and Broward again showing their dominance on both state and national levels, it's worth considering the case of Wesley Frater. For two decades, the Jamaican-American community activist has organized Florida's only all-star game honoring the top 100 high school football athletes.
But for the past three years, the Miami Dolphins have undermined his hard work by hosting their own game. Instead of cooperating with one of the most dedicated men involved with high school athletics, the Phins are competing against him.
That ain't right.
This season, Frater's game will be played December 22 at Traz Powell Stadium, and the Dolphins' contest pitting the best high school players from Miami-Dade and Broward is scheduled for mid-January at Sun Life Stadium.
"During the first 11 years of our event, the Dolphins organization was one of our biggest sponsors," Frater says. "They donated over $35,000 and allowed us to use their facilities." His Tournament of Champions has drawn some other big names over the years too.
Since the beginning, Nike has been the title sponsor. Other corporations supporting the event include Publix, Doctors Hospital, and WQAM-FM. Even small businesses such as MLK Restaurant in Liberty City chip in.
Frater has been successful because the Tournament of Champions is more than just a game. To participate, student athletes must perform some form of community service and attend a symposium where NFL players describe the perils of being a celebrity athlete. Former University of Miami stars Willis McGahee, Andre Johnson, and Duane Starks -- who have played a combined 27 years in the NFL -- are just a few of the men who have attended.
"We try to teach them that it's not all about buying Lamborghinis and $5,000 bottles at LIV," Frater says. "The reality is that athletes are failing financially at a miserable rate. Many of those who make it to the NFL come back home dead broke after retirement."
Frater tells me that he doesn't know why the Dolphins, along with sports apparel maker Under Armour, decided to rip off his idea. Obviously, the Dolphins disagree. Team spokesman Harvey Greene says the organization is not competing with Frater because the all-star games are a month apart and because 100 percent of the Dolphins' event is given to youth football programs in Dade and Broward.
"The more all-star games, the more exposure for student athletes," Greene says. "We think our game benefits Dade and Browad football in general and the student-athletes who participate in it."
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But Frater is helping kids year round. He's been pounding the pavement for decades to get high schools sponsorships from Nike and other sports equipment companies. Frater also organizes the only all-star high school basketball game in the state, as well as a seven-on-seven football tournament in the summer where kids get to showcase their talents for college coaches and scouts. The Dolphins are the big corporation that sees the little guy accomplish something with nothing and think they can do it better.
However, South Florida's football community knows that Frater is the guy who started an all-star game when no one else wanted to do it.
The Dolphins should honor him.