The city of Massillon feels smaller than it’s population of 32,000. I like to joke that Massillon connections are like the old game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, only most of us know each other by no more than 3 degrees. Among Massillon’s most well-known names and faces is Ellery Moore. Ellery endeared himself to Massillonians on the football field and has returned to the area to raise his family and lend his colorful commentary to the football game broadcasts on ESPN 990.
Ever the popular presence on social media, Ellery has recently been an active voice for change and social justice. He has been a passionate supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and has opened up about his experiences with racism to help bridge the divide of understanding and empathy in our community.
I’ve followed Ellery’s posts for several months and have been impressed with his patience, kindness, and respectfulness in the face of ignorance. I’ve also seen his bravery and honesty as he’s shared his lived experiences and defended those who have been oppressed.
I had the pleasure of coaching Ellery’s daughter, Evie, this season in her first year of soccer and have known his wife, Amber, for years. We began our conversation by discussing the perils of guiding children through the obstacle course of race while creating change by teaching inclusion.
Ellery, a father of seven, shared with me what it is like talking to his children about the racism they will surely face,
“I have to tell my kids that they can do some of the greatest things in this world, absolutely amazing things, and somebody might not respect it, like it, agree with it, applaud it because of the color of their skin. That hurts to have that conversation with a human being… It angers me and frustrates me that we haven’t gotten to a point where we can’t sit down with our children…and say, ‘When you accomplish something great in this world and it’s good and it’s right, nobody is going to hate it… ‘
When I talk to my children, I want them to understand that the world is going to see them as they see their father: As a black man… Imagine having to tell your child not to put his hoodie up, even if it’s cold, unless he’s with a group of people. Imagine having that conversation as a person, as a human being. Is that the conversation we should be having with our children? ”
I shared with him that as a white woman, I was slowly learning how to understand and talk about race with my children. We spoke at length about how white parents often don’t think it’s their job to talk to their white children about race. I asked Ellery what he thinks is important for white parents to teach their children,
“Teach your children how to be good people. To do what’s right and treat people right, right away…When your children see a black person walking down the street in a hoodie and sweatpants, that person could be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, a paramedic, a police officer. We can’t play in the gray area when we’re trying to teach our children to be good people. To lead this country better in the future. What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.”
Ellery’s connection to the Massillon Tiger Football program is strong. He shared his passion with me about the program and his new role, mentoring the players and calling the games every Friday night. He told me,
“This town is so addictive. We are far from perfect, but we’re as genuine as it comes. I love watching young people put their shoulders back and hold their head high.”
While it’s clear Ellery loves this town and loves the program, he hinted at some doubts that maybe the town didn’t love him back like he thought. I shared with him that several former players had expressed this same doubt and disappointment. I asked him about these lingering echoes of distrust, a sense of being used or betrayed by those who cheered for him the loudest. Ellery emphatically agreed adding,
“Over the summer, I attended a protest in Massillon with Brian Burns and I broke down on the microphone because of the lack of people there. People who see me every day when I walk into restaurants, the football stadium, the soccer fields, who just love me, they weren’t there that day. And it was heartbreaking and that day I took off my orange and black goggles. I said,’I’m sorry. For so long I never thought my town could carry that much hate.’
I want to be here for these young people. So many of the black kids in Massillon feel like they were used. There’s no help after they leave. There are so many athletes that were cheered on by thousands and don’t have anything, but they were everything at Massillon for three years straight. When they ran for that 60 yard touchdown, you jumped up off the bench screaming and yelling in the stands, but now you won’t even let that person work for you. ”
I was struck by Coach Nate Moore, head coach for Massillon football, speaking out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. To be honest, it surprised me a bit because Massillon is not exactly the most progressive place. Coach Moore took a risk with his public support. I asked Ellery what he thought it meant to his players and if he thought coaches had the responsibility to speak out. He told me,
“I hope that the players and coaching staff took that to heart. He strongly understands the need for change. He is pushing toward trying to understand the pain that people who look like me go through. When Coach Moore did that, I imagine he got a few text messages and phone calls, [questioning his decision].
Nate is a special dude. I have a lot of love and respect for Nate and his wife Becca for how they’ve embraced this community and the people in it. He wants to do more. He just doesn’t want to win a state championship; he wants to see young people succeed in life.
I reached out to Nate for the video because I have a lot of respect for him. I wanted people in Massillon to hear their head coach, actually denounce some of the ideas they have in their minds because they’re wrong. I want them to hear somebody who has the same skin tone as they do, who they actually have respect for, tell them if they feel that way they’re wrong. He did exactly that.
Our program as a whole really has the ability, with our platform in our town, to ruffle some feathers, get people uncomfortable, and make them start talking and figuring out a way to do better. ”
I shared with him that as a coach and mother myself, I felt compelled to express my solidarity and support of social justice movements like Black Lives Matter. I just couldn’t be silent when people I loved were in pain. Unfortunately, both Ellery and I have many people in our lives who disappointed us with their silence. I asked him how important vocal support was to him and what message was being sent by those who remained silent. He told me,
“Oh, The silence is louder than the voices. It’s deafening actually. It’s heartbreaking the silence… to hear their silence on issues that are hurting me…it rips me to my core. What they are doing is hurting someone who they claim to love. They claim all of this love, but they want you to be silent about what’s right and what’s wrong…
If you are unable, as a human being, to see a mother hurting who lost their child, and you can’t feel that pain, you’re in the gray area. You’re straddling the fence, rationalizing why it happened instead of saying the way that happened was wrong.
I’m not competing with you as a Black man to stay alive. I’m not competing against your life. I’m competing for life. I just want my life to matter just as much as yours matters. Until you see that, our children are going to grow up ugly.
All you can ask of a person is to give me what you got. For white people out there, that is all we are asking for. Give me that human being side of you. If you find that human being side, you’ll maybe start understanding a little more.”