(Thursday, December 9, 2004)

JON BON JOVI attended a conference of AP SPORTS EDITORS on Monday, December 6th in Atlantic City, NJ. It was not open to the public; it was a private event for writers in the vicinity of Philadelphia. As promised, below is a transcript of the speech Jon delivered and asked to share on -- it will stay up in this news section but will also be added to the JBJ page along with his other speeches (Monmouth, Oxford, AMAs...) Enjoy Jon's take on the role of sports and athletes in today's world:

Atlantic City, NJ / December 6, 2004

It's nice to be here in A.C. Thanks for having me.

I'm here to talk with you… to you… but not at you, about the Arena Football League.

I'm also here to talk to you about the opportunity to do something positive for your readers who are in fact YOUR audience. The kids, as well as the parents.

I can tell you about OUR game. When it started on the back of a manila envelope in 1981… or how it's grown over the years to include 9 NFL owners and an NBC contract. I can brag about Kurt Warner and his coming from the Iowa Barnstormers to winning the MVP at the Super Bowl with The Rams.

Or how Jon Gruden fired his kicker last week and hired the kicker from his brother's team, the Orlando Predators.

But what I really want to talk about is how you and I can make a difference in our community doing something that we love to do.

I got into this as a lark, honestly. It was brought up on a long flight with the band by a sports agent who happened to be along for the ride. I told him how depressed I got at the end of the NFL season and what a long road it was until pre-season the following year. He told me about the Arena league and the rest is history. But the real history begins after the purchase of the team.

I thought about the role that sports has played in my life. Why is it that I still remember Willis Reed limping onto the floor to bring the Lakers down and win the Knicks an NBA title?

Why do I still remember the starting lineup to this day? Why do I still BELIEVE? Because Tug McGraw told me to.

I remember how Phil Simms led the Giants back to the Super Bowl. He never played anywhere else, never was an addict of any kind and had no bad habits to report. She showed up, he played and he won. Think about the positive influence Pop Warner and Little League had on you and now your children. There was an underlying current of innocence in that dedication and commitment that became the foundation for anything else you ever did. That innocence we all had when playing the game was what really mattered… not just winning at any cost.

Think about what draws us now to Minor league baseball. Is it the opportunity to see tomorrow's stars? Is it the opportunity to share the experience with your family at a price you can afford? Is it the cynical adult who HOPES he sees boys play a game they still love and still believe in?

That’s ME.

The guy who still believes. The one who understands what a difference a role model in sport and life can mean to a kid. Before the Soul ever played a down, before we sold ONE ticket, before I agreed to have a partner in this endeavor, I wanted it to be clear that there was room for the positive aspect of sport. These guys were going to be heroes on the field but, more importantly, OFF the field. We have made it a point to give away hundreds of thousands of dollars to various charities in and around Philadelphia.

We've created jobs for people who have the desire but not the helping hand, built a playground for a foster home that didn't have one. Bought beds at a shelter when they didn't have a place to sleep.

This isn't mandatory. No one can be forced to do good. Even if we could forcer the players, the kids would see through it.

Our dance teams were interviewed as role models for kids. I put their names on the backs of their jerseys to give them their own number and promote individuality and the opportunity to be a positive force when they appear on behalf of the Soul at schools, hospitals or charity appearances. Young girls need positive esteem and as a father of a daughter… this I know.

Now, where you can make a difference is simple.

Ladies and gentlemen, the facts are simple. The pen is in fact mightier than the sword. WE (you and I) need to spread the word. We need to promote the positive aspect of sport again. Why is it that we condone the behavior of the players who continually let down our kids and us? Why do we treat these "bad boys" as heroes? Just because they can throw a ball through a hoop? Because they can score a touchdown or hit a fastball? That type of behavior wouldn't be tolerated in the boardroom, it couldn't be tolerated in a hospital or a laboratory yet it has gone so far as the college football field and into the stands of Pro baseball and basketball.

Now it may be naivete but, the Arena Football League's Fans' Bill of Rights is something that is held in high esteem in our circle. It talks about the rights that a family have to a safe, fun, affordable time while touching tomorrow's stars or seeing the guys who are in it for the simple love of the game. What differentiates us from minor league baseball is our television commitment and distinct partnership with NBC that extends through 2006 and our new contract with Fox Sports Net.

Every week you'll be able to see it live or watch it on TV. When the fan, both young and young at heart, gives the game a chance you'll see the difference. SEEING IS BELIEVING. Reading about these guys educates. And when a kid gets that guaranteed autograph at the end of the game and starts to build a friendship with our players because he now really knows these pro athletes they see on the field and on TV… that will make a difference. When you write about the commitment by the league to make it a safe, fun, affordable positive environment… that will make a difference. When the community knows that they can help the ownership as we continue to make donations that this year are expected to reach $400 to $500 thousand dollars in their community… that will make a difference.

When you help make that difference in your community by covering the Soul and giving a shot to the little guys who are committed to these ideals, you'll know you were a part of something special. Wouldn't it be nice to have a relationship with a team who give you access to the players and not just an audience?

Wouldn't you love to see the drive behind their eyes and really get to the heart of the matter? Get to know these guys… get to know their game… you just might have a bit of fun along the way.

Thank you.