How This NFL Coach Rallied His Pittsburgh Steelers to Fight Child Sex Trafficking
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He's the NFL's youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl. Now the man without a losing-season during his 11 years at the Pittsburgh Steelers, Coach Mike Tomlin, has another mission.
"I'm a slave stealer!" he told CBN Sports.
This field general has an off-field mission that recently stole his heart – helping to rescue children from enslavement.
Leave it to a head coach to call an audible at a press conference to announce that the Steelers are supporting an agency that rescues kids from sex trafficking. Operation Underground Railroad is a group made up of former law enforcement and former Navy Seals who work with local law enforcement that go undercover in a dark, dark world.
Question: "You initiated that. What was the turning point, Mike, for you, to be involved?"
Mike Tomlin: "It didn't take long to get there. All you have to do is be exposed to what Tim and company are doing at OUR. I spent some time praying about it and thinking about it, as did my wife and bring OUR out here and spend a couple days with us as a football team. God would take a hold of that and provide direction for all of us and the relationship has grown."
Question: "What is it about Operation Underground Railroad that you most admire?"
Mike Tomlin: "They're a nonprofit organization that provides latitude to have partnerships with other governments and really eliminate a lot of red tape. And that's what you got to do, man. We're trying to rescue kids in the sex slave industry. These are guys that are kind of cut like I'm cut. They see a problem and then they go about solving it. Action takers! But those are the type of guys you want to come alongside and pray for and help!"
Question: "How have the players responded and how have you seen their lives impacted by it?"
Mike Tomlin: "From a professional football standpoint there's so many things, initiatives and causes going on, that in some way potentially divide someone in some corner of the room. And the minute we presented them and the work that they're doing to the team, it was something that unified the group. Every man was moved and it's been 100 percent participation, different from man to man, obviously. And that's a beautiful thing."
Question: "Describe that Steeler football brand and reputation – no nonsense and tough – that doubles up as a requirement for what would it take for any of us to rescue the enslaved and the trafficked."
Mike Tomlin: "The same principles that we live by as an organization, as a football team! Our brother can depend on us. We don't make excuses. We believe in taking action as opposed to making statements. Those things embody OUR and what they're doing and this is God's work, this is not the work of men. The pieces fit too perfectly together. They're black & gold, determined years ago before they met us. They're slave stealers! That's their motto. And, you know, we've adopted that motto."
Question: "What was the one thing that swiveled your heart?"
Mike Tomlin: "That it may happen in other countries, but we, as Americans sadly, are the #1 consumers worldwide. We drive the market. American citizens. That struck me – like a lightning bolt! And that probably was as impactful in terms of me having a strong desire to take action as anything."
Question: "Tragic, heavy, heartbreaking. It's too tough for some to look at. But for you, why is an apathetic response unacceptable?"
Mike Tomlin: "It is tough for me to look at. But I also know that's one of the reasons why you've got to look at it. And that's one of the reasons why it pushes – pushes you to action. As difficult as it is to digest, to fathom, it's probably just as tough not to take action once you've –once you've crossed that bridge."
Question: "Speak to me as a father of three that includes one daughter. Where and how does that hit you the most deeply as a dad?"
Mike Tomlin: "There was a specific story about a young Haitian kid. And his dad's been searching for him for a long time. And it connected to me. In this job, I work late hours from time to time and so I get home late at night, I might poke my head in every bedroom. It's just what you do as a parent. I couldn't imagine a child not being in one of those bedrooms. It's unimaginable. And yet and still there are thousands and thousands of parents that deal with that reality on a day-to-day basis."
Question: "No child, Mike, should lose their childhood."
Mike Tomlin: "No question. No question."
Question: "Sex trafficking industry profits: $32 billion a year. The rescue, then to get it at its core, it seems two-fold: go find and rescue those children. And then face another thing that's almost as difficult: the willingness to pray for a change of heart in the culprits. Can you do that?"
Mike Tomlin: "I didn't think that I could. It's interesting that you ask that. Because the more I educate myself to this issue I can answer yes to that now. Because you realize that prayer is what's needed. The problem's so large and so widespread. It's much bigger than we all would like to realize. The chief component has to be prayer."
Question: "Prayer reaches to the heart and Mike it seems to me, children and women are held hostage because of the enslavement of others. From your experience, what and who frees you from your own personal imprisonments?"
Mike Tomlin: "You know, that's an interesting question. I get challenged in ways that keeps my confidence properly placed. You know. There's so much in our business that fosters real humility. It has fostered my personal relationship with my Lord and Savior. I just think about the grace! It is just an unbelievable thing! And that's one of the reasons why it pushes you to action."
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