In a video from the USA Network, New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz meets face-to-face with a gay teen who’s attempting to overcome the emotional scars left by years of being bullied in high school.
The video was published on January 8 and is part of the network’s Characters Unite series, a public service program dedicated to addressing cultural and social injustices.
Watch the video below.
In NFL Characters Unite, Cruz lends his support to nineteen-year old Joey Kemmerling, who is hoping to conquer the homophobia and bullying he’s faced at the hands of his high school peers, including athletes. Kemmerling came out when he was a middle school student and was relentlessly bullied for years due to his sexual orientation.
According to USA:
Classmates called him hateful names, physically hurt him and even threatened to light him on fire. The school locker room was a particularly painful and dangerous place for Joey, as much of the taunting took place there.
At one point in high school, the situation got so bad that he contemplated suicide. With the support of his mother, Joey was able to move past the homophobia and harassment he experienced and he decided to use his voice to help stop bullying. He launched a youth-led anti-bullying organization, became active with the nonprofit GLSEN and has spoken to groups of students, educators and even members of Congress.
As Kemmerling recounts his most upsetting memories, Cruz shares his own experiences of being bullied in his youth, due to his half Puerto Rican and half African-American ethnicity. With the help of Cruz, the young teen is presented with an opportunity to revisit a locker room—a place that still conjures up painful memories.
Cruz takes Joey on a tour of the New York Giants locker room to help him finally rid himself of the pains of his past. By the video’s closing, Kemmerling gains the closure needed to continue on his path to emotional recovery.