The National Black MBA Association held its 38th Annual Conference and Exposition in New Orleans Oct. 11-15, 2016. Among those in attendance at the career expo was NFL Hall of Famer and sports commentator Jerome Bettis. Rolling out had a chance to catch up with the football veteran on what he’s been up to since he retired from football, his perspective on athletes using their platform to speak out against racial injustices, and his next business move.
How did you determine what would do after your sports career?
It was pretty simple. I went through a different chapter in my life because I got married and had kids. For me, I had football and then it was family. From a business standpoint, I was a business major at Notre Dame and that was always a part of my focus even when I was playing football. For instance, I had a television show, a radio show and that really got me prepared for life after football going into television as a career. From that standpoint, there were other opportunities that presented themselves to me. Now, I’m partnering with a minority staffing company that we have called MBC Group. It was a process, but a process that I was very comfortable with. When I retired, I was ready to go. Physically my body said you’re done and it’s time to turn the page on the next chapter of your life. For me, it wasn’t that hard having gone to school for business and then having been involved in business while I was playing.
What are your thoughts on athletes like Colin Kaepernick speaking out on social causes and injustices?
I think you have to be principled [in] to your conviction. This is what I want to do and this is what needs to be done because you always have to understand with any social change comes hardships along the way. You have to understand that you have to be willing to sacrifice that as well. On one side, you don’t see the full scope of what the protest brings. As long as you are comfortable within, then everything else doesn’t mean anything. I have 100 percent respect for what Colin Kaepernick is doing. I totally understand it and stand behind him because this is an issue in our country. It needs to be addressed and the conversation needs to be had. I think we are starting to see the conversation take place in different areas like the guy’s house in the backyard where we would have never thought about that. Now we are starting to have that dialogue and understand the other perspective and I think that’s important. It’s not just minorities; it’s everyone in the community. If the person next to you can now understand just a little more about you as a person and what you have to deal with, then things will move forward in a positive direction.
Could you briefly speak about a time when you’ve used athleticism and professional conditioning to address social justice issues or gain a competitive business edge?
For me, it’s been pretty simple. I am who I am. The person that played football was physical, tough and determined in his thinking around the field is the same person now in the business world with that same approach and same tenacity understanding that it’s going to be tough and difficult. I was built to deal with that and those tough moments. From a business standpoint, it’s that same mindset to grind this process. In order to be great, you have to have that same approach. When you start to rest on your norms you begin to fall back. With success and failure, it’s the same exact way.