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"Either you slingin' crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot"
--Notorious B.I.G. ("Things Done Changed")
Unfortunately, that's the perspective of too many young black men -- that if they can't make it as a rapper or a hooper, the drug trade is all that's left for them. In an effort to tear down that self-defeating mindset, Minnesota Timberwolves forward Corey Brewer recently has been promoting Respect My Vote, a nonpartisan voter registration campaign that plans to bring more than 250,000 new voters to the polls this November.
Brewer, a supporter of Barack Obama, believes Obama would not only bring about a change in the nation's approach toward foreign policy, healthcare and the economy, but also provide much-needed hope for young black men.
"If we finally get a black president, it'll show a lot of guys that you don't have to be an athlete to make it in the world," Brewer said in a telephone interview between training camp practices Wednesday. "Guys can say, 'If a black man can be president, I can do anything I want to do.'"
Respect My Vote focuses on registering people between the ages of 18 and 29 who have not attended any form of college. Statistics show 93 percent of African-Americans in that demographic failed to vote in the recent presidential primaries.
Brewer, 22, realizes he easily could have been among that group if he hadn't attended Florida on a basketball scholarship.
"When you go to college, everybody on campus is excited about the elections and telling you to vote, vote, vote," Brewer said. "There are booths out and everything. That's why I was so excited to vote in 2004. But a lot of people that don't go to college think their vote doesn't count, that it doesn't matter if they don't vote. I know a lot of my friends I grew up with -- most of them didn't go to college, and I don't think they voted either. So I want to help them see that their vote does count."
Brewer is one of several NBA players to publicly endorse Obama. Greg Oden endorsed him last season, and LeBron James donated $20,000 to his campaign. James also recently met Obama backstage when both appeared on "Late Show with David Letterman." James gave Obama an autographed basketball.
"They were both trying to play it cool," one observer said. "But you could tell LeBron was really excited."
Brewer said the upcoming election has been a hot topic among players.
"You hear a lot of talk," he said. "Everybody's like, 'Yeah, we have to support Obama. We need change.'"
Brewer spoke a lot about the problems with the economy and said that while he has a guaranteed multimillion-dollar contract, he hasn't forgotten where he came from -- tiny Portland, Tenn.
"The economy might not affect me that much, but a lot of my family has been affected by it," he said. "I didn't grow up with money, so I know what it's like to be on the poor side. And it's not just about yourself; it's about other people in the world.
"Plus, the stock market's been going down. So while we may have money, if it's in stocks, that affects us too."
We often criticize today's athletes -- particularly the black ones -- for not taking stands on political or social issues. "There are no more Alis and Jim Browns," we often lament. Brewer said that's not fair.
"I think we do get a bad rap because when a few athletes get portrayed in a negative way, everyone thinks all athletes are the same," he said. "But a lot of guys really do want to help out."