Brett Favre teams with ex-UFC star Chris Lytle to stamp out bullying
The anti-bullying movement has swept across the country over the past few years, with celebrities, athletes and organizations working to educate and hopefully stamp out the awful act.
And now, with October being recognized as anti-bullying month, a former UFC star has teamed up with an NFL legend to help spread the message.
Prior to his retirement, Chris Lytle was a fighter known for putting on the kind of performances that would routinely earn him "Fight of the Night" bonuses. He was an exciting, knockdown-dragout kind of fighter, and it would be hard to imagine anyone actually trying to bully him — but Lytle experienced it quite often when he was growing up.
Now that he’s out of fighting and spending time at home with his family, Lytle was made aware of the problems with bullying again recently; it struck close to home with one of his kids, and it served as a wakeup call to the former UFC welterweight.
"I have four kids and one of my aspects with that is my youngest son, Jake, has autism. So that’s always something on my mind; I worry about him and how he gets treated," Lytle told FOX Sports recently. "He gets treated very good and I know that, but he’s also very fortunate that he lives in a small community and a community that knows me and knows what I do, and they take care of him very well.
We have a problem that we can actually prevent. We have problems throughout the world, but here we have something that’s manufactured on our own. Kids are depressed and committing suicide and there’s something we can actually do about it
— Chris Lytle
"But I’m very sensitive to it now. I hear about situations where it happens. I heard about this one story with a kid who had autism, and they invite him to a party and they get him drinking and they beat him up and videotaped it; people are watching and nobody’s doing anything. I’ve seen people go through depression and even commit suicide. As a parent and as father, it breaks me down. It’s an issue I’ve always been thinking about."
The inspiration to get involved led Lytle all the way to the point where he decided to write a book about anti-bullying that he could share with children when he goes out on multiple speaking engagements all over the country. Lytle enjoys talking to students about motivation, perseverance and drive, but when he took up the cause of anti-bullying, his enthusiasm reached a new peak.
The book, "Lights Out on Bullying," is a story that Lytle decided to write, and a day later he had an entire story plotted out and ready to serve up to potential publishing partners.
"I wrote it in less than a day. I decided I was going to sit down and I had a concept in my head and I wanted to teach a lesson. So I sat down and made some characters, and … put all the pieces together. It started flowing pretty well, and it was surprisingly easy," Lytle said.
"The hard part making sure I could get fifth-, sixth- and seventh-grade kids could understand it, so I had to write it from their perspective so it was something they would read and see their point of view."
Once Lytle finished the book, he teamed up with the social networking site Sqor, which then passed his work along to NFL legend Brett Favre. The future Hall of Famer immediately offered a helping hand to push the anti-bullying movement alongside Lytle.
Favre took interest in anti-bullying because his own children and grandchildren are growing up in a world where it’s such a relevant issue in schools.
"I in particular growing up was never bullied," Favre told FOX Sports. "I grew up in a real small town, a really small school and fortunately was a really good athlete, and a lot of times that saves you. But there are a lot of kids out there who aren’t as fortunate, so I think it’s a very important movement. Chris Lytle wrote this book, and that’s most recently how I got involved."
"It was simple, to the point; here’s a guy who is one of the dominant forces in the UFC, and he talks about his experience being bullied as a child. You go, ‘Whoa!’ Here’s a guy that can choke you out in five second, and he was bullied. No one is immune to it."
The hard reality is, bullying isn’t going away. According to the latest studies by the Department of Health and Human Services, one out of every three students reports having been bullied, and 70.6 percent of students reported that they had personally witnessed bullying at school.
I guess you could obviously put hazing in there as a form of bullying. I didn’t believe in it. I felt it was important that everyone felt like they were part of the team and they were
— Brett Favre
One of the biggest problems with bullying for students or even adults is identifying the problem while it’s happening. It’s easier to think of a big kid picking on a smaller kid in school, but there’s workplace-related bullying and event sports-related bullying.
It wasn’t until Favre started talking about the cause that he realized he was actually a victim of a type of bullying during his first year in the NFL.
"As I think back, I guess you could obviously put hazing in there as a form of bullying," Favre said. "My rookie year in Atlanta, one of the rituals that the team would do is they would shave everyone’s head, and this was back when there were 12 rounds of the draft. So there were more rookies on the team ,and of course I was one of them. I fought them tooth and nail to never get my head shaved, and they never did. It was part of it, but I didn’t want my head shaved. But then every day before practice, my football pants, my shoes would be put in the shower and would be soaking wet.
"Then when I would come in (after practice) my street clothes would then be in the shower. It just detracted from what I was trying to do. I would just think to myself that I wasn’t a starter, I wasn’t really anybody, so who cares if I was upset or not focused on the game? I wasn’t playing."
Once Favre moved on to the Green Bay Packers and became a leader on the team and the starting quarterback, he never perpetuated the hazing rituals he witnessed while in Atlanta.
"I didn’t believe in it. I felt it was important that everyone felt like they were part of the team, and they were," Favre said. "Ultimately, you would need some rookie or some nonstarter at some point in the season to help you win a football game, and if he was more worried about what was going to be done to him or always looking over his shoulder, how could he focus on what he had to do? I never believed in it and still don’t today."
Either way, Favre and Lytle are on a mission to stop it.
"There’s no worse pain than to be ridiculed by your classmates or your teammates. Those are the people you look up to more than anyone else, especially in your teens," Favre said.
"The message is it’s not cool to bully. You’re not cool. It doesn’t make you a tough guy or a tough girl — it makes you look like an idiot."
Lytle knows he can’t change everybody, but he hopes he can at least reach some kids with his book — and with the message that bullying is not OK, and nobody should have to deal with it.
"We have a problem that we can actually prevent. We have problems throughout the world, but here we have something that’s manufactured on our own. Kids are depressed and committing suicide, and there’s something we can actually do about it," Lytle said.
"I felt I had a responsibility to do something about it. My father always told me, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected.’ I was put in a pretty good position where people will listen to my voice; now what am I going to do with it? You can have an effect on the outcome of other people’s lives. We are supposed to try and help each other out."