BEREA (92.3 The Fan) – Hue Jackson has already taken on one of the greatest challenges in all of sport – turning the Cleveland Browns into a winning team – but he’s now tackling one off the field that carries far more importance than wins and losses on Sundays.
“This is an issue that goes uncovered. A Lot of people don’t want to talk abut it,” Hue Jackson said while speaking in the Browns’ team meeting room at the kickoff event held at the team’s headquarters in Berea, Ohio. “Not enough people want to deal with this issue.”
Jackson along with his wife, Michelle, launched a foundation Thursday night in which they hope to make a difference in helping the victims of a crime that goes largely unnoticed by the common public and happens in our own back yard.
“I’m not afraid of a challenge, obviously I’ve faced them every day,” Hue Jackson said referencing his first season with the Browns that saw the narrowly escape a winless season. “I like a challenge and that’s what life’s about.
“We’ve seen the impact of what this creature does to people.”
The fact that Jackson went 1-15 in 2016 is rather insignificant to think about as he spoke about how northeast Ohio, and the entire state for that matter, have some of the highest number of cases of human trafficking in the nation according to the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
“When we did our research, to find out this is the leading area of human trafficking [it] was surprising because you wouldn’t think that,” Hue Jackson said.
Cases in North Olmsted and Rocky River were mentioned during Thursday night’s presentation.
“North Olmsted, that’s right around the corner,” Michelle Jackson said. “That’s close. That’s right here, so all throughout Ohio, all throughout the country [it’s an issue] but we’re targeting here.”
Human trafficking is essentially modern-day slavery that involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to attract and recruit victims and then eventually forcing them to perform some type of labor or sex.
“There are elements of this that we’ve seen firsthand,” Hue Jackson said. “A lot of different areas in this realm that we’re talking about we’ve witnessed and have been privy to, so it’s something that me and Michelle really discussed at length about what direction to go in and this is where it led our hearts.”
The fact that Jackson has made assisting those affected by human trafficking his foundation’s mission delighted Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, who has formed a commission to fight human trafficking.
DeWine along with other local leaders and politicians were among those to attended Thursday’s event
“Human traffickers target the most vulnerable members of our society who need the most help and use them for their own profit and advancement,” DeWine said. “The work that the Hue Jackson Foundation will do to help combat this will be invaluable in providing awareness and prevention to help protect our children and loved ones from falling victim to this heinous crime.”
As part of Thursday’s launch, The Hue Jackson Foundation announced a partnership with the Salvation Army of Greater Cleveland to provide secure housing for those who have been victimized by human trafficking.
The Jackson’s, who have three daughters, believes that safe housing is an important component for survivors.
“As parents, I think we all know that these issues are out there and you hear about it everywhere and they affect everybody somehow, someway,” Michelle Jackson said. “And we’re no different. As parents of three girls, this touches us. And we’re very, very excited to take this on.”
The facility named in honor of Jackson will house 12 beds and provide a safe environment and resources for victims to heal, receive treatment and put their lives back together. The facility will also include shared office space for law enforcement, healthcare and social service professionals who work with victims.
“Lasting effects that happen to these young people, or even older people, they need help. I think it’s very important to lend that assistance,” Hue Jackson said.
The Jackson’s credited the philanthropic work of Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam and used their efforts as inspiration in launching their first foundation.
“Being around Dee and Jimmy and watching what they do in the community and all of the different avenues and all of the different people that I’ve watched our organization touch, it goes on and on here,” Hue Jackson said. “You can’t help but want to do better.
“And the other reason is we want to embed ourselves in the community. It’s not just about being a football coach here. It’s bigger than that and we wanted to make a difference out there.”