The Saints Linebacker Who Speaks His Mind (NYT)

By JOE LAPOINTE, NYT Publish Date: February 2, 2010

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita addresses hot-button issues the way he might meet an opposing running back: directly.

So Fujita was not shy Tuesday about entering two Super Bowl debates that have little to do with his team’s game Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts.

At issue are two Super Bowl television commercials, one about abortion, the other about gay rights.

The first ad — which will be shown on CBS — is an antiabortion message from Focus on the Family that includes Tim Tebow, the former Heisman Trophy winner from Florida.

The other ad — which was rejected by CBS — is for ManCrunch, a gay dating service. Fujita has spoken out before in favor of abortion rights and gay rights.

“It’s just me standing up for equal rights,” Fujita said. “It’s not that courageous to have an opinion if you think it’s the right thing and you believe it wholeheartedly.”

The Tebow ad suggests that Tebow’s mother was advised about having an abortion when she was pregnant with him, but chose instead to give birth.

The issue resonates with Fujita because he was adopted, and Fujita said he respected Tebow for standing up for what he believed in.

“The idea of focusing on the family — who wouldn’t agree with that?” Fujita said. “But the means of doing so, he and I might not see eye to eye all the way.”

When Fujita was born in 1979, his biological mother, he said, was in her teens and she gave him up for adoption because she did not have the means to raise a child.

“I’m just so thankful she had the courage and the support system to be able to carry out the pregnancy,” Fujita said. “I wouldn’t expect that of everybody.”

As for the rejected ad about gay dating, Fujita said he had no objection to the topic being aired, but understood why some people might complain.

“The idea of doing it at the Super Bowl is going to raise some eyebrows,” Fujita said. “Do they have the right? Absolutely. Is it going to offend some people? Absolutely.”

Last fall, in an interview on the Sirius XM Satellite Radio show “Edge of Sports,” Fujita bluntly supported a march for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights.

“Just because I’m in favor of gay rights doesn’t mean I’m gay,” Fujita told the host, Dave Zirin. “I know who I am. My wife knows who I am.”

Fujita, who played in college at California, and his wife, Jaclyn, have twin daughters who are 2 years old.

In Tuesday’s Super Bowl session with members of the news media, Fujita, who said his teammates give him some gentle teasing in the language of the locker room for his public opinions, reflected on how the campus he attended is known for progressive attitudes.

“There is a certain stigma that comes with being from Berkeley,” he said. “And I’m proud of that stigma.”

He also discussed the attitudes of other athletes toward gay rights.

“By and large, the players are more tolerant than they get credit for,” he said. “It’s not a big issue. Some guys will think you are crazy for believing one way, but they’ll still accept you.”

Acceptance and tolerance are important to Fujita. His adopted father is a Japanese-American who was born during World War II in an internment camp in Arizona.

Fujita said that at the time, his grandfather was fighting in the United States Army in Italy. He said he takes strength from his grandmother Lillie.

“I don’t hear any sense of resentment in her voice,” Fujita said. “She grew stronger from it. I just always say, ‘What do I have to complain about?’ ”

Fujita, who said that his family observes Japanese holidays and that he knows a few words of Japanese, is often interviewed by Japanese television reporters.

“They always want to talk to me, the big white guy with the Japanese name,” Fujita said. “I have no Japanese blood in my body. But I’m Japanese at heart.”

Fujita joined the Saints in 2006, the year they returned to New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. He was named the team’s man of the year this season for his charitable works. Among Fujita’s causes is a New Orleans Catholic adoption agency.

He played for Kansas City and Dallas, but has come to love New Orleans.

Fujita said that when he chose to leave the Cowboys as a free agent in 2006, people asked why he was abandoning what some call America’s Team.

“Well, they were the self-proclaimed America’s Team a couple decades ago,” he said. “They have really, really good, loyal fans. But the rest of the country hates them. Let’s be honest.

“The Saints are America’s adopted team.”

Fujita often uses words like love, hate and heart. He did not “stand up on a pedestal” to campaign for Barack Obama for president, to get American troops out of Iraq, in opposition to bigotry against Muslims, for gay rights or abortion rights.

And yet, he said he knows his visibility helps advance his viewpoints. “People ask me a question, I’ll give them my opinion,” Fujita said. “I never claimed to have all the answers.”

Filed in: Press Room • Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010


By Lisa Kawahara-Roberts on February 12th, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Thank you. Thank you for standing up. You are using your position as an agent of good.
Thank you.


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Scott Fujita

Scott Fujita was born in Ventura, California on April 28, 1979. He was a three-sport standout at Rio Mesa High School in Oxnard, CA before heading to the University of California, Berkeley, where he graduated with Honors in Political Science and earned a Masters degree in Education.

Fujita has played in the NFL for the Kansas City Chiefs, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Cleveland Browns. Read more