This week's cover story in New Times is about Chae Haile, an adoptee from Korea who went on a hunt two years ago for her birth family. Along for the ride was husband Greg, who had many reasons to fear that Chae's family may dislike him. First was the fact that Greg is a foreigner, something supposedly feared and disliked in Korea. Then there's the fact that he's black, another stigma in a supposedly unforgiving country.
But Greg had an unlikely hero while meeting his wife's family for the first time: former NFL receiver Hines Ward. Ward's name came up early during Chae's search for her family. Greg met his mother-in-law, Moon Ja, for the first time in January 2011. He figured he needed to address the issue of his race right off, so he asked her: "What do you think about me being black?"
Moon Ja responded: "Hines Ward."
Turns out the ex-Steeler is half Korean and half black and has traveled there often to
try to spread the idea that none of that makes him a bad guy. Ward first
traveled to Korea in 2006 after winning Super Bowl MVP honors. Speaking
by email with New Times, Ward says he had wanted to see the
country where his mom was from. But she had told him horror stories
about the way biracial people are treated.
"When I got to Korea, I couldn't believe it," Ward writes. "To have such a big welcome from the whole country was overwhelming. Even the military came out to welcome me. It seemed like everyone in Korea loved and supported me."
Ward figured he should use that good will to try to teach Koreans that there's nothing wrong with biracial children. "So many of these kids give up before they even turn 18 out of a feeling of doom. If I can make a difference in one bi-racial kid's life, then I will have accomplished my goal," says Ward, who retired from the NFL last month.
Asked about Greg's experience with his mother-in-law, Ward writes: " Oh man, it makes all my hard work and the time I put into my foundation all worthwhile. I hope I can continue to hear more stories like that. It's very encouraging to me and only makes me want to continue my efforts even more. That's great."
As for Greg, he says of Ward: "I owe Hines Ward a letter of gratitude, for sure."
Eric Barton is editor of New Times Broward-Palm Beach. Email him here, or click here to follow him on Facebook.