BEREA — The second part of Ronnie Cameron’s work day starts as he leaves the Cleveland Browns facility. After practice, after meetings, after lifting, after more meetings . . . the Browns backup defensive tackle goes home to his other jobs.
It seems incongruous that today’s highly paid athlete would have a job after football, but Cameron is not the prototype. His Twitter account (@RonSCameron) is filled with political analysis — he’s one of few NFL players tweeting about Benghazi — and he writes a political blog for The Huffington Post, with recent posts about the ambition of immigrants and “why politicians can’t tell the truth.”
He loves football, but he said he hopes the work he does when the football day ends will, literally, change the world. He’s developing and running a website called Bonfire Impact, and it could have major reach.
“I’m starting a news blog network for social awareness, nonprofits, human rights,” Cameron said during a recent interview. “It’s pretty much like a Huffington Post for a lot of the stories that don’t always get noticed.”
Cameron said he’s always been interested in social issues, a byproduct of being raised by a mother from Haiti and a father from Trinidad. Neither had a high-school degree, and both worked multiple jobs to raise their three children.
“It makes me sad that attention is paid to issues when it’s convenient,” he said. “It becomes a trend story, but when the trend passes, people are still suffering.”
His example: The earthquake in Haiti, his mother’s home. There was a lot of immediate attention paid to the people in the short term after the earthquake, but in the long run it got lost.
“I’d like attention paid to things like that on a daily basis,” he said.
His goal is to bring organizations, causes and issues together so the people who care or are interested can find information in one place.
“It’s almost a free media conduit for these not-for-profits,” he said. “Especially with the economy not being so great right now. They don’t have as much money to spend on advertising, because people aren’t giving as much to charity. So it’s almost like a way to meet an end, and also to reach out to a younger population.
“My website is really pointed toward the younger population that really doesn’t know a lot about human rights or have the social awareness for what is going on because there’s really no place for that right now.”
He envisions the site as a hub that attracts readers with information, then links out to sites to enhance what he provides.
“Say you want to know about heart awareness or things like that,” he said. “You have to go to 10 different websites. How about you just go to one place that has all the information and that can lead you to where you need to go?”
The site should roll out in mid-December, but a prototype online (www.bonfireimpact.com), includes articles about restoring the waterfront along the Buffalo River, a Lafayette, La., couple who took in seven children who needed a home, and a story on domestic violence, headlined “a direct attack to women’s dignity, violation of human rights.”
Bonfire Impact’s logo calls the site a “Newsblog network for celebrating good works, exposing injustices and a beacon for social awareness.” The name comes from the meaning of the word bonfire, which Cameron said is a beacon, an eradicator of waste or is part of a celebration.
“Which the website stands for,” Cameron said. “Impact is the effect I want to have on the world.”
Cameron was a standout defensive tackle and student at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va. Besides earning All-America honors (including second team on AP), he also earned his undergraduate degree and an MBA in Information Technology in four-and-a-half years. He signed with the Bears as an undrafted free agent in April, then joined the Browns when the Bears waived him late in camp.
He’s used his MBA to organize the site electronically, with meetings held via Skype or video conference. His office? Wherever he happens to be.
“Everybody that we have working for us are volunteers,” said Editor-in-Chief Ashley Dale, “and they are super-excited and are really passionate about the issues we cover. Hopefully this reaches the younger generation and sparks an interest in them actually getting up and doing something.”
Cameron is mining journalism schools for writers, and hopes to pay them when the site becomes successful. It’s the model many sites have followed.
One other focus of the site will be on professional athletes.
“Guys that are doing good things,” Cameron said. “Because those stories don’t get highlighted. … We’re going to have a section that concentrates completely on what athletes are doing right in this world, whether it’s missions in other countries, their philanthropic endeavors, their charities, their foundations.”
He mentioned he’s already talked with Scott Fujita about helping Team Gleason, the foundation in honor of Steve Gleason, the former Saints player who has ALS.
“Ronnie is a perfect example of someone who wants to make an impact, a positive one, and the fact that he’s developing a platform to showcase some of the good that others are doing is really admirable,” Fujita said via e-mail.
Cameron summed up his approach in his blog:
“This what I’ve learned from my parents — never be complacent, always want more. Not in greed but in progression.
“They’ve always taught me to strive to be a leader and strive to be the best. If you aren’t progressing you are failing yourself.”