On Thursday, NFL legend Burgess Owens announced that he will be running to represent Utah’s 4th Congressional District as a Republican in 2020.
Owens, whose work outside the NFL has been focused on youth advocacy, made a splash in May when he penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal in which he spoke out against reparations for African Americans, a topic that has recently been given a national spotlight.
In June, Owens appeared before Congress, along with several other African Americans, including Quillette’s Coleman Hughes, and once again explained his position against reparations.
Utah’s 4th Congressional District is currently represented by Democrat Ben McAdams, who beat Republican incumbent Mia Love in 2018 by just 694 votes (50.1% to 49.9%).
On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to speak with Owens about his run for Congress. In the following interview, Owens discusses his upbringing, the “four tenets” philosophy, political polarization, reparations, the Democratic Party, and much more.
DW: Why are you running?
OWENS: That’s a great place to start because I’m one of those guys who’s always said, all my life, that I’d never, ever be a politician, never thought this would be a way to get any solutions.
What I’ve been doing for the last several years, what my mission in life has been, is I believe in working with at-risk kids. I felt that way when I left the NFL back in 1983, and I realize now it’s more than just black kids; it’s all our kids who are really at risk. So, I founded a non-profit called “Second Chance 4 Youth” to help juvenile kids come out of the system and not go back in.
I recognized about four months ago when I was thinking about what we’re doing here in Utah that if we don’t get the power back in the hands of those who believe in education and opportunity and family, if we don’t get it back to the Republican Party, then our kids don’t have a chance – and that’s not just black kids, it’s all kids.
As I look at studies right now saying two thirds of millennials believe that socialism is okay, it means there’s something going on with our youth, and they’re not going to be able to carry on this great American culture if they’re believing that socialism is better than the free market, or if they believe our country is a place of racism versus a place of opportunity.
We’re at a point now where we’re truly fighting for the heart and soul of our nation. I think the best thing I can do at this point is take the experiences I’ve had throughout my life, growing up in the Deep South, and my love of country, my vision for what we can do, and try to do what we can to get back the House so we can get our country back on track again.
DW: If elected, what would your primary focus be as a congressman?
OWENS: I’ve kind of drilled it down to four things, and I’m informed by one of the greatest Americans in our history. His name was Booker T. Washington. He was a former slave who actually impacted my community such that from an early point in the 1900s, we were one of the most competitive races, communities in our country.
He broke it down to four different things, four tenets. It’s head, heart, hands, and home. Education, God, industry/self-reliance, and family is home. Those are the tenets that I’ve built my campaign on. I think also those are tenets that will actually allow us to have conversations across lines.
I believe that good – not only Republicans, but independents and Democrats – that we’re so divided that we’re not looking at what we have in common.
Everyone who loves our country will want to make sure that we’re educating our kids to our American way, our history, make sure that we are not afraid to talk about our God in heaven, how we might worship him, to recognize that’s where our blessings come from, continue to talk about working hard and not being dependent on others, and the family being the center of what makes our culture right.
I think many Americans, no matter what side of the aisle they’re on, who believe those tenets can come together.
DW: Did your childhood, growing up in the era of Jim Crow and the KKK, inform your social and political ideology? And if so, how did it?
OWENS: Absolutely. I was fortunate to grow up in the Deep South, Tallahassee, during the ’60s, the days of KKK, Jim Crow, and segregation, and I feel fortunate because I grew up in a community that was really very successful. A black, segregated community that reflected what was going on across our country.
Many Americans don’t know this, and I was so blessed to have grown up and seen it with my own eyes, so it’s not hypothetical – but the black community from the ’40s, the ’50s, and the ’60s were leading our country in the growth of the middle class.
We were leading our country in the sense of entrepreneurs, over 40%, leading our country in the sense of men committed to marriage, over 70%.
So I watched, in a community in which I didn’t interact a lot with white people, but I knew that this country was the greatest in the history of mankind, that we could overcome anything if we worked hard, stayed honest, and made sure that those who didn’t believe that we could do it, we worked hard to make sure that they were wrong.
So yes, this informed me. It’s something that I was just happy to see, proud to have a father and a mother who believed in our country and taught us the principles of what our country is based on.
My thing right now is that I would love to have our country go back to those basic days in which we respected people, respected our country, believed in God no matter how we worship Him, but knew that our country was based on Judeo-Christian values. That was a great time in my life to grow up, and it informs me in everything I do today, to know that our country can once again be a united country as opposed to what we’re going through at this point.
DW: Why do you think the African American community votes almost monolithically for Democrats?
OWENS: Because it’s called propaganda, indoctrination. The Democrats have done something very good for a long, long time.
The biggest enemy to my race has not been white supremacists; it’s been black elitists, black Americans who live the American dream but who also adhere to the Marxist, socialist agenda, and they got into our community and began to get us away from our moorings.
Remember I talked about how great our country was doing and how my community was doing? Those moors are based on those four tenets, and when you get people in there that begin to teach our kids that there’s no God, teach our kids that we have a hateful country, teach our kids that there’s no such thing as a true parameter in terms of what the family unit has done for our country, that’s basically what we’ve had in our community. We had those among us who’ve done the very worst to us in putting together policies that made us dependent on our government, policies that take away manhood and womanhood, policies that go against everything I just mentioned before, and that’s been our problem.
I think to get that back, we have to recognize that in order for us to move forward, we need to look at each other from inside out, not outside in; look at each other for character, look at the messaging, and not believe that someone is racist against us just because of their color, or that they’re for us because of our color.
We have to look at each individual. If we do that, we’ll find that those who believe in the American way, believe in meritocracies, are our friends, no matter what color they are, what religion they are, what culture or what background they have. If they believe in the four tenets, they are our friends.
If they don’t believe in those tenets, they are against us. They’re against the American way. Unfortunately, that’s where we’ve fallen flat and allowed those who do not believe in our American way to become our leaders.
DW: What is something that you would say black Americans need to know about the Democratic Party?
OWENS: What I would say is instead of listening to what they have to say, let’s look at what they do. I would say look at the statistics of where our race is today, and let’s be honest about who’s at fault.
In 2017, 75% of the black boys in the state of California couldn’t pass standard reading and writing tests. What do we know about the state of California? It’s run by Democratic policy.
Over the last eight years, up until the time that President Trump came on board, 83% of black teen males across our nation were unemployed; 93% in the liberal city of Chicago. What do they have in common? It’s run by Democratic politicians.
Every single urban community that is in misery, unemployed, uneducated, angry, becoming racist – what do they all have in common? The Democratic party.
My suggestion to all people: let’s get back to what makes our society work. Values and principles. The simple values you really highlight. What are policies that you would think you’d want for your kids? Do you want them educated no matter what zip code they live in? If that’s the case, be independent, but you need to be looking for a party that believes in those values of educating all our kids.
If you’re like me, and you’re really tired of the idea that over 18 million black babies have been aborted since 1973, and having an abortion industry that puts 80% of their abortion centers in the black community – if you think that’s not right, if you think that’s unfair, if you think that the genocide of the black community is not the right way, let’s step aside from that party and let’s be independent.
My suggestion is, let’s all become independent. Let’s look at the policies. Let’s look at the values and principles that work for us, and let’s vote that way, and I have a feeling that the Democratic Party will not do very well in that process.
DW: What do you think is behind the hyper-polarization that we see in today’s politics and society, and how do you think we can go about fixing it?
OWENS: Well, it’s because polarization comes down to one thing. It’s having socialists and Marxists in control of the most important institutions in our society. When you have a news media that is not about fairness, it’s not about honesty, it’s about an agenda.
Here’s some context. Karl Marx, the founder of socialism and Marxism, said something back in the 1800s, and that is, the first battleground is the rewriting of history.
When you get people whose ideology says that anything they do is okay, that you can rewrite things, that you can tell untruths about things because it’s about the bottom line, then we have an issue. The problem with our enemy, and that’s socialism and Marxism, is that they don’t have the same morals.
When you think there’s a North Star and everything should be based on that North Star, then your actions and your verbiage and your vision comports to that. When you don’t have a North Star, then you’ll do anything you need to do.
We have a society right now where there’s no rule of law by the Left. There’s no honesty by the Left. You take kids, when we take them to their colleges and they don’t tell the truth, they tell them propaganda, they come out not understanding our country, not believing in our country, but actually hating America and everything it stands for.
This is an attack we’ve been under for quite a while, and we just have to recognize that the dissonance that we have right now can be eliminated if we do one thing. No matter what party you’re a part of – Democrat, independent, or Republican – let’s focus on the tenets (head, heart, hands, and home). If you believe those four tenets, we come back together again. If they don’t believe those tenets, then at least we know who they are. They’re people who don’t believe in our American way. So, let’s focus on policies, those tenets, and not prioritize instead politician and party.
DW: Do you think the Republican party has a communications issue when it comes to reaching out to minorities?
OWENS: No. It’s not a communication issue. It’s the fact that we have a propaganda machine out there that no matter what we do, we’re going to be called “racist.” If it was a fair contest where the media was doing their job and showing what was going on, we wouldn’t be in the position we are in right now.
We have a president who’s done more for the black community than any other president in the history of our country. We have the lowest unemployment rate. We have entrepreneurship in the first two years growing over 400%. We have a middle class that’s now coming back because of the tax structure and getting rid of the regulations.
All this good stuff is going on within the black community and yet the person who’s doing it is called racist by those who did just the opposite. So, it’s not a communication problem on the part of Republicans, because if anybody would listen to us, we’ll show them where we are, what the numbers are, what success is, and how many black Americans are running away from the Democratic party.
The problem is that the leftists own the machine of the media. What they’re doing is they take the people who have already bought into what they do and they trust them, and these folks are getting them to believe in the propaganda they’re pushing out.
For those who continue to wonder if the Republican Party is racist or not, look at the results and look at the upswing in hope. Look at those blacks that are leaving the plantation and ask them, “Why are you leaving? Why are you leaving the Democratic Party?” We will tell them, “Because the Democratic Party has done nothing but damage for the last 70 years to black America.”
We’ve been used, abused, and discarded. There are those of us who are waking up, are splitting off this plantation, and we’re letting everybody behind us know, “Follow us. Don’t trust these guys because they’re up to no good.”
DW: Why do you believe reparations are a poor idea?
OWENS: Reparations begin with a premise. Remember the rewriting of history. If the leftists steal our history, the pride we have in our past, what we’ve done together as a people – black, white, Jewish, gentile, it doesn’t matter what – if you take away that, they can replace it with anything they want to.
Reparations are basically a condescending view of black people that more or less says this: “You were slaves, and between then and us letting you vote in the 1960s, you did nothing. You sat back while we oppressed and kept you down, and kept you being a helpless race.”
The reason that I’m against reparations is because I lived in the times. I recognize that this is actually an insult. I lived in a time where my parents, my parents’ generation, and my grandparents’ generation were competing, winning, producing, manufacturing, doing all the things they wanted to do to earn and command the respect of other Americans.
Reparations, very simply, are a leftist way of keeping us divided. It’s a way to have white people believe that because of their white skin, they are an oppressive race, they are a race that is overwhelmingly too powerful for us to do anything about, and allows black people to think that because we’re so weak, so helpless, we could not do anything, so now you’ve got to repay me. It’s a lie.
We need to learn our history. When we learn our history, we’ll be very proud of our track to where we are today. More importantly, where we are today is better than any other place around the world. There’s no place in the history of mankind where black Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans live better than here in the United States, and that’s because we’ve done the best of looking at each other from the inside out, and not the outside in.
DW: There are a lot of issues facing the black community, specifically socially. What do you think broadly can be done to help heal those issues in today’s times?
OWENS: I think we first of all have to recognize that the policies that will help the black community are not black policies. The black community is not an alien race. We’re Americans. Let’s put together policies that work for all Americans, and we will rise with that.
Let’s look at the head, heart, hands, and home. Let’s put together policies that allow every American, no matter where they come from, what community they live in, to get a quality education. Guess what that would do for not only black Americans, but for Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans and Irish-Americans? If their kids are guaranteed a quality education, they’re not indoctrinated by the leftists, then we’ll all grow as a country.
The second thing is, if all Americans are allowed to worship as they will, as they want, and not be taught in the history books that we are a godless country, then we will be a country that will serve each other in a big way, because at the end of the day, that’s what belief in God does. It allows us to get past ourselves and look at other people and want to serve them.
If we’re allowed to worship our God the way we want to, and allowed to go into a church and have a pastor say what he needs to say because he’s not being scripted by government, that’s a good start.
As for industry, let’s put together policies that let every man, woman, and child who wants to work, work, and that includes giving young people having a chance to get out and work to produce, to learn what it is to add to our country. All Americans should have that opportunity, and if we do that, then of course we’ll get back to the idea of industry.
The last thing is, we have to understand the family unit is the core to our country. We need to respect womanhood – and that’s not a black/white thing. It’s a people thing. Respect womanhood. Our young men are taught to stand up and be proud of who they are, protect those around them. Those, again, are not black issues. Those are issues and policies that allow us to just be a better country and get back on track to where we once were.
DW: Lastly, is there something that you want to say to our readership that we haven’t touched on in this interview?
OWENS: I would say this. It’s all about our history. What we all have in common, and what we share is a great history. So my suggestion to white Americans and all those who are not minority is learn your history. Stop apologizing for who you are. Stop apologizing for what you didn’t do. You realize that every generation, very simply, we look to find our better selves, and that’s what’s happening to our country with every American, no matter what their color is.
For black Americans, my message is very simply this: let’s learn our history and stand by the country that’s been great to us, and that our ancestors came here and earned the right to be respected. They didn’t sit back. They didn’t feel sorry for themselves. They didn’t say, “Look at me. I’m a victim.” They went out to make sure they could command respect. They did a great job of it, and we have a great history, and we literally led our country in so many ways in terms of the growth and the understanding of the American culture.
Let’s learn that history, be proud of ourselves, and be proud of those of other colors and other religions that have worked with us throughout the last 100 years to make sure that we’re the greatest country, and have the greatest opportunities of any place and any people in the history of mankind.