“Don’t be a Turkey Person,” says football coach Bill Courtney, the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary, in his new community-giving campaign, announced Monday.
A “Turkey Person” is someone who serves his or her community only on Thanksgiving, Courtney explained in a press statement for the campaign.
“If you serve soup at soup kitchens, or you give away turkeys on Thanksgiving, or gifts at Christmas to children who don’t have ’em, it is a beautiful thing,” he said in a campaign video. “But what’s your motive?”
Courtney is best known for his work as a football coach, profiled in the 2011 documentary “Undefeated,” which won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, and for his podcast, “An Army of Normal Folks.”
His story took place, he said, in a neighborhood “where young men were [three times] more likely to be dead or in jail than have a job or go to college.”
Courtney coached character, not just athletics, he explained in the video. To be part of one positive thing in their life, these students fought their own friends and got beaten out of gangs so they could play football.
“Many of these kids were doing homework for the first time in their lives, and their friends were calling ‘em chumps,” he said. “I got ‘em being respectful in classes,” and ultimately, winning football games.
“Together, [the team] went 18-2, and 31 of 32 seniors went to college” in his final two seasons.
Courtney is a businessman and community volunteer, whose experiences, he said in the press release, prompted him to encourage others to serve their community all year, not just at Thanksgiving. The campaign features a Times Square billboard that went live on Monday.
In the campaign video, Courtney shares a conversation with one of his athletes at Manassas High School in North Memphis, Tennessee, who said, “Every thanksgiving and Christmas people come into our neighborhoods, and they give us hams and gifts and turkeys … . But then they leave, and we never see them again. That kind of makes you wonder if they’re doing that ’cause they really care about us, or they’re doing that to make themselves feel good.”
“If you are not motivated to do something for the simple edification and exaltation of another person who is not as blessed, as fortunate as you, and you’re motivated by what it does for you, then you are in fact a Turkey Person,” the coach said in the video. “And what a Turkey Person is, is a fraud.”
His athletes started buying in to his the success plan when what they saw was a servant and not a fraud, he said. “We need to create an army of normal folks that do things all over our country in their communities and their neighborhoods that say, ‘Hey, I can help.’
“I know government’s never gonna get it right … but I see a need, and I can fill it. We can do more damage than good if we go into areas of need and do it for ourselves,” Courtney said.
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