NFL: Garcon puts Haitian hopes on his bandanna
By MICHAEL MAROT
AP Sports Writer
MIAMI — Pierre Garcon keeps finding new ways to spread his message about Haiti.
First, it was through his charitable foundation. Then it was celebrating with the national flag after the Colts’ two playoff victories. On Tuesday, the Indianapolis receiver used his head, literally.
He took advantage of football’s biggest stage, the Super Bowl, by donning a bandanna that resembled the Haitian flag and put the relief effort in the earthquake-ravaged nation squarely in the spotlight.
“I’m trying to give them a little hope and trying to help as much as I can and do something positive for them,” Garcon said during media day. “So far, I’m very pleased with what we have done with a lot of help and support. I know we couldn’t do it by ourselves. I’ve been in touch with Haiti and I’m very pleased with what we have done.”
The second-year player from Mount Union, a Division III school in Ohio, has spent the past month enduring sleepless nights, countless hours watching the cable news channels and trying to cope with the angst and anxiety in a country where he has dozens of relatives and friends.
Garcon’s mother, who migrated from Haiti to the U.S., picked vegetables on a farm and now lives near Miami, kept trying to reach people close to the family. Most, they know, survived. Others have been more difficult to reach.
Yet Garcon figured his job, playing football, gave him an opportunity to make a difference and he took full advantage of that megaphone during the playoffs.
Rarely does an interview go by in which Garcon doesn’t make a plea for Haiti. He’s used his Twitter account to solicit contributions for the relief effort and he’s teamed up with the Northwest Haiti Christian Missionary Group to help raise money for the country.
In some ways, football provided a needed respite for Garcon and gave Haitians an opportunity to revel in Garcon’s success.
He made the potentially game-changing play against Baltimore by forcing Ed Reed to fumble after he intercepted Peyton Manning. The Colts recovered, snuffing out a Ravens scoring chance. The next week, against the Jets, Garcon had 11 receptions for 151 yards, both career highs, and scored the go-ahead touchdown in the AFC championship game.
In other ways, it has put football in perspective.
“I’m not certain you can ever say any tragedy like that helps,” coach Jim Caldwell said. “I’m certain he’d rather be free of those worries. But I do think that he’s shown some unusual resolve. I think he’s used some of that, maybe to push him forward. I think I heard him mention that if he could do something and do it well, it may bring a ray of sunshine to one or two of his family members who is OK.”
Garcon’s mission may still be in the early stages, but the message is getting through loud and clear. Colts and Jets players, he said, have routinely asked him how to help.
Two Saints players with Haitian ties also have offered assistance.
Linebacker Stanley Arnoux, who, has a half brother and half sister in Haiti, wants to lend his hand after the season ends Sunday. Jonathan Vilma, another linebacker, is selling T-shirts with the phrase “Department of Domeland Defense” and also hopes to make a more significant presence in the relief effort. Vilma, like Garcon, also has family and friends in Haiti.
“Everything about the shirt was something that I felt like we needed, and it really helped with everything going to the Haiti relief effort,” Vilma said. “That really was a huge plus for me, because I can’t really do anything else besides that at the moment.”
In addition, the labor unions in the NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have formed an alliance called “One Team 4 Haiti,” a group that will partner with the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund.
Garcon isn’t waiting.
He’d rather use his fame and the Super Bowl stage to make his pitch now, when time and money are of the essence to one of the world’s poorest nations.
“Life in Haiti is tough,” Garcon said. “It is just like New York City with people working and going about their business and doing the things they have to so that they can survive.”
And if Indy wins Sunday, Garcon wants to end the postseason the same way he started it — with a celebration of his adopted country.
“Hopefully, we will win and I will have it (the Haitian flag) out there with me,” he said. “There are a lot of bad aspects with being Haitian so I’m just trying to do something positive and let people and especially kids know we can make it (in America) and be anybody we want to be.”