In our third installment of “1-on-1 with Prime,” Deion Sanders and I talk about the controversial “Trump Tapes,” and how he believes they’re a result of a decline in self-respect and respect for the dignity of others. He also discusses the need for men to serve as leaders and mentors for younger men, teaching them how to care for themselves and for others.
Ellen Carmichael: As you know, Donald Trump made headlines due to audio leaked recently that showed him bragging about his sexual exploits, including sexually assaulting women who obviously did not agree to his advances. What were your initial thoughts as you saw that news develop?
Deion Sanders: First and foremost, it’s totally detestable. Absurd. Adolescent. Ignorant. I have never been one to “kiss and tell.” So, I don’t even understand a man feeling so insecure he must boast about his private exploits.
EC: I think that the outrage was two-fold. First, at the time, both he and the woman were married….
Sanders: I don’t think it’s outrage that he was married. Trump and faithfulness aren’t synonymous. We were outraged because of the lack of integrity and the consideration of the dignity of another human being. Not to mention, she’s a woman, and he’s running against a woman.
EC: And the other reason, of course, is he said that even if the woman didn’t want it, he’d grab her anyway. Do you think that’s something – the sense of sexual entitlement, if you will – is that something that’s pervasive in celebrity culture?
Sanders: I’m not going to single out athletes. Many athletes are offended that Trump singled us out when [he said] this is prevalent in boardroom, water cooler, cigar-filled backroom or country club talk. Unfortunately, this is the way some boys talk, not real men.
“Unfortunately, this is the way some boys talk, not real men”
EC: But you’re not like that…
Sanders: I’ve never spoken about my private business, but that’s common for boys. Just because it’s common conversation with boys, it does not make it right.
EC: Do you think it’s especially pervasive among men with power or money?
Sanders: No. We’re living in a time when men are sleeping with women, photographing themselves and sending it to social media because they’re trying to call attention to themselves for whatever reason. That’s the time we’re living in.
EC: You and I have talked a lot about the “reality television culture,” and just the oversaturation of social media. There just seems to be a lack of respect for the dignity of others. I was always taught as young female that I was entitled to my body and my dignity. But now, it seems a lot of what is out there right now doesn’t reaffirm that for young women. Then you see something like this, and you’re told that the justification is, “Well, all men are like this.” What do you say to young women who think to themselves, “My goodness, I hope all men aren’t like this”?
Sanders: Well, it’s not just all men. Once upon a time, a woman was tight-lipped about her private matters, too. Now some of our most infamous women have been successful by exploiting sex and sex tapes, purposefully leaking them for profit or notoriety. We have yet to identify a real, true talent that they have.
EC: I understand, but it’s not the same as touching a woman who doesn’t want to be touched.
Sanders: Of course it’s not. That’s absolutely wrong. But it’s a two-sided coin. There needs to be a larger conversation about the sexualization of our culture. People’s personal affairs aren’t personal anymore. America, this is where we are, and most have accepted that it is what it is.
EC: What do you think led us to this point?
Sanders: When we took God out the schools, we allowed the fools and nonsense to come in. What happened to our Godly principles?
EC: So, modesty and self-respect are intrinsic in a faith-filled society, right? If you have a society that is rooted in morality or some kind of values, you’re less likely to see what you’re seeing now, right?
Sanders: We have kids raising kids right now, and many are angry.
“We have kids raising kids right now, and many are angry”
EC: I know you’re passionate about helping single mothers. What is it going to take to raise up a generation of men who respect women – emotionally and physically – and who support women, especially when they have children with them? What’s it going to take to turn the tide so women are respected again?
Sanders: Women should be the focus, not just because a woman is running for president. Women should be the focus regardless, because women are the backbone of our country, of our communities and of our homes.
EC: How do we get men to get back to a point where, assuming there ever was one, they’re doing right by women?
Sanders: First of all, we need to define what a man is. You have to have a man understand he is a man, and not a boy. Just because he has the “man utensils” doesn’t mean he’s a man. We’ve got a lot of boys who are over the age of 18. And, many haven’t been taught. In almost every genre I know, when a person comes to a place of success, he or she was taught. They have a teacher.
But, we want a young boy to be a man and he hasn’t been taught to be a man by a man. There’s probably 60 percent or 70 percent of our boys in America who haven’t been taught to shave, to tie his tie or to open doors when a woman enters. They haven’t been taught to say yes ma’am, no ma’am. Or yes sir, no sir. They haven’t been taught how to fill out a job application or to a balance a checkbook. They haven’t been taught the keys to manhood. They haven’t been taught that if you father a child, you take care of that child, regardless of how you feel about the mother. They haven’t been taught that they are to have a job that one day becomes a career or how to start a business.
EC: So, if there’s stagnation among males in society – Peter Pan Syndrome, if you will – there seems to be no real responsibility. It’s just about what feels good. There’s no self-restraint. A lot of this is because, as you’ve often said, there are too many boys who don’t have male role models to show them obligation and a sense of duty to other people.
Sanders: We have boys now over 18 playing video games instead of going to work, instead of playing this real game called life. They’re cheering for their favorite sports teams instead of cheering for their sons or daughters.
It’s the same thing with women. A man wants a woman who is going to love him regardless of what he has. He wants her to have his back, regardless. He’s looking for the same thing because it’s such a materialistic rule and men are getting pre-judged by what they have. Oftentimes, good men don’t get the chance to have a good woman because they don’t have things.
“We have boys now over 18 playing video games instead of going to work, instead of playing this real game called life”
EC: I agree, but you also have a diminishing work ethic. It’s not everybody, but it seems to be a real problem among young men today.
Sanders: We are visual people. We go by what we see. Athletes want to be an athlete because of who they saw as a child. Rappers and entertainers and actors want to be that because they saw someone as a child who did it. If you’re not seeing someone in that light as a child, what do you want to be?
You want to be yourself. But who are you? Lost. So you wander aimlessly through life trying to find out who you are, until you prayerfully run into a man who directs you and tells you who you are and who you’re capable of being.
EC: What are some things that are immediate needs for older men to be teaching younger men to improve their lives and improve our culture?
Sanders: First of all, a heart. A lot of older men have been hurt emotionally and psychologically, and they have lost a lot of hope in the younger generation. They don’t even want to deal with them.
After we heal, we want to get back to the places in the community and in our country where we can reach back and teach another and give them unconditional love.
EC: And what does that help look like?
Sanders: That help looks like mentorship. Every team I worked on, I took a young guy and I tried to help him – not just in practice, but off the field and in home. If the private life didn’t match up with the public life, it wasn’t going to work anyway. Some men don’t know how to love because they haven’t been loved.
They don’t know how to get a job because they’ve never seen someone have one. They don’t know how to dress the part or articulate themselves because their thought process reflects how they had to “talk hard” to prove they weren’t soft.
There has to be a body of men that cares enough to look back and extend their hand to help another person.
Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter at @ellencarmichael.