A game plan to help

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 3:34 PM ET

THERE WAS a video on the Rogers Centre JumboTron yesterday.

It was an aerial shot of Toronto, with the words "Stop The Violence -- We are Toronto," and it was on a gigantic loop, with the same scene replayed over and over and over.

And that is the gun problem in Toronto, an interminable loop that has seen 31 people shot to death this year in a city still appalled by gun violence.

We are Toronto. And what, exactly, is that?

Well, maybe a collection of communities that can help.

The Argonauts, one of the oldest businesses in town at 132 years old, called a news conference to offer a glimpse, if not of the solution, then of the process that would lead toward one.

"As friends, as family, as fathers, we're concerned," Argos president Keith Pelley told a crowd of media and school kids yesterday at the kickoff to the Stop the Violence campaign. "We are concerned about what has transpired in our community over the last couple of months."

Gun and gang culture is, of course, a layered problem fraught with assumptions about race and class, socioeconomics and public policy. No one cop or social worker or football player or politico has a lock on how to fix it.

About the only thing everyone agrees with is that a kid is less likely to buy a gun and use it if he has a place to play and belong.

And that's where the Argos are starting.

The club says it will raise $100,000 to be spent on facilities in poor neighbourhoods. It will hold a practice Aug. 30 at a neighbourhood field in the Finch Ave. area.

The club will hold a town hall meeting to be broadcast Sept. 11 on CITY-TV that will include kids and victims of gun violence. Argos coach Pinball Clemons and CITY-TV's Gord Martineau will be co-hosts of the show.

The Argos also launched a website at www.stoptheviolence.ca., pledged public service announcements during games and an expansion of a school program that saw players meet 20,000 kids last year.

For linebacker Michael Fletcher, a summer of gunplay has stirred memories of the childhood life he escaped in crime-infested Compton, Calif.

"Three of (his brothers) gang banged and were in and out of jail," Fletcher said. "One's still in jail right now.

"I got two phone calls last week. Two guys I grew up with got killed last week. That's the stuff we see in our streets there and if it's there I sure don't want to see it here."

Special teams player Chuck Winters grew up in the Herman Garden projects of Detroit. His 18-year-old brother Malik was murdered in a drive-by in 1998.

"When I heard about the violence I instantly got saddened," he said. "I lost my brother seven years ago and the pain that I went through, the suffering I went though, I don't want any other families to experience that."

Clemons spoke about the murder by gun of his father-in-law, and his background as the son of an 18-year-old single mother on some of the poorest streets of Dunedin, Fla.

"We as a community have taken too long," Clemons said. "We've left it up to others to do our job. It's our job."

Ultimately, the solutions lie in the communities and homes, but the Argos' involvement helped diminish the perception of a "black problem."

Bullets don't distinguish by colour, and the unhappy confluence of a shared border with a gun-obsessed culture, a music and entertainment industry that glamorizes violence and generations of economic hardship feed the cancer.

To reclaim Toronto The Good, every corner of the city needs to react with genuine revulsion toward crime and gang life and take a step toward stopping it.

The Argos stepped up. Good on them. Time for the Blue Jays, Raptors and Maple Leafs to follow suit.


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