Avril has strong ties to Haiti: His parents emigrated from there, and he's been building a house there for each sack he's recorded over the last two seasons.
Athletes of Haitian descent took issue with reported comments Thursday by President Donald Trump, who asked during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”
Trump was referring to immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries, and as The Washington Post first reported, he singled out Haiti. “Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump reportedly said, while insisting that they be omitted from any bipartisan immigration deal. “Take them out.”
The parents of Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril immigrated to the U.S. from Haiti. Their charitable foundation aims in part to “provide educational support and opportunities to youth in Haiti.” Avril has a strong connection to the country, and has pledged to build a home there for every sack he records. In addition to housing, Avril has helped build Haitian schools.
“As a proud descendant of Haiti, I’m disappointed by the divisive words from the President,” Avril wrote on Twitter. “Haitians and others have contributed to this country and should be able to continue to do so.”
He also earlier reacted to tweets about Trump’s comments by Britt McHenry. The former ESPN reporter, who has become a conservative media figure, had said, “Let’s be real, people: 38,000 Haitian people live in make-shift camps. US Department of State assessed Port-au-Prince as a ‘critical-threat’ location for crimes towards Americans. High crime rate.
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“But, by all means, harp on Trump’s description & not the actual problems,” McHenry added.
“Have you actually been there?” Avril replied. “Propaganda at its finest!”
Avril retweeted another Twitter user’s comments that Haiti is a “constitutional republic in the Caribbean that fought for its independence (and won) and ended slavery a full 60 years before we did,” and that the country has “an amazing history full of wonderful people who we should have compassion and respect for.” The Seattle player, who last year made good on a promise to build a house in Haiti for each of the 12 sacks he notched in 2016, said of immigrants to America, “Haitians are part of the people that came to the country to help make it great!”
49ers wide receiver Pierre Garcon asked his social-media followers to “let me know how you feel.” He retweeted another post that noted Friday will be the eighth anniversary of a devastating earthquake in Haiti, one that killed tens of thousands of people in the Caribbean nation.
Garcon, who was born and raised in the United States, but whose immediate family is Haitian, created a charitable foundation called Helping Hands to “bring enduring education, health and community programs to the people of Haiti.” On Thursday, he posted a video clip from that evening of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who went to Haiti to report on the 2010 earthquake and told viewers with emotion, “I’ve never met a Haitian who isn’t strong. . . . Haitians slap your hand hard when they shake it. They look you in the eye, they don’t blink. They stand tall, and they have dignity.”
“It’s a dignity many in this White House could learn from,” Cooper continued. “It’s a dignity the president, with all his money and all his power, could learn from, as well.”
Another athlete who tweeted out the Cooper video was 49ers defensive end Leger Douzable, whose father was born in Haiti and who, like Garcon, has traveled to the country to provide help in the wake of natural disasters such as Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Garcon also posted praise for former NBA player Olden Polynice, who was born in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince.
“Olden you are our hero we will keep carrying your fight,” Garcon said on Twitter. “You inspired us. It’s our job to keep moving forward. You did your part.”
Garcon was replying to a tweet Polynice posted in which the ex-center said, “I’ve been fighting this fight for over 30 years . . . it continues.” That was in response to another user’s Twitter post in which Polynice and other athletes of Haitian descent were advised, “Please DON’T stick to sports. As athletes sharing my Haitian bloodlines please use your platforms to denounce the racism and bigotry of our so-called president.”
Shad Gaspard, a Haitian-American actor and pro wrestler formerly with the WWE, also chimed in. After offering a brief synopsis of how Haiti arrived at its current state, he said that “the people of Hispaniola, the people who fought for freedom, the people who helped the Americans fight for freedom of their slaves 100 years after we took our freedom back, will always be stronger than you could imagine.”
A version of this story was originally published on washingtonpost.com. Read it here.