Perhaps they’ll show Cherokee Nation officials giving away T-shirts at the game, as the tribe plans to do. The shirts have Bradford’s name and football jersey number written in Cherokee.
Bradford’s Indian bloodlines were never part of coverage during his outstanding high school career at Putnam City North. Why? As his father Kent told The Oklahoman’s Jenni Carlson during Sam’s breakout season as Oklahoma’s quarterback in 2007, "We actually have never been active in Indian affairs or culture. Not that we aren’t proud of the Cherokee heritage, but we were simply raised as middle-class, Oklahoma City people.”
Bradford’s great-great-grandmother was a full-blooded Cherokee. He is one-sixteenth Cherokee. Best we can tell, Carlson was the first to publicize this, in her ’07 story about the Oklahoma Indian community’s pride in his success. She said OU’s sports information office asks each of the school’s athletes if they have American Indian ancestry; Bradford said he did and added, "But I don’t know much about it so call my dad.”
He knows more now, after winning the Heisman Trophy and being asked frequently about the subject, and says he hopes to learn more about his ancestry. No fan of the limelight, Bradford has nonetheless embraced this piece of his celebrity. "God has blessed me with a great platform,” he told the Orlando Sentinel.
What’s Cherokee for class act?
"God has blessed me with a great platform” doesn't sound like a huge embrace of Bradford's Cherokee heritage to me. It sounds more like a (politically) correct answer to a question. "Being Cherokee is a blessing...although I still don't know anything about it...next question."
Bradford's Heisman acceptance speech seems like a truer expression of his feelings to me. In several minutes of talking he didn't have anything to say about his Cherokee background. Apparently he referred to being "blessed" only during a Q&A after that.
I'm glad Indians have found someone they consider a role model. And I'm glad the Cherokee are getting exposure through their connection to Bradford. But I'm not as impressed as this writer seems to be.
Bradford still "says he hopes to learn more about his ancestry." Great. Let us know when he stops talking about embracing his Cherokee roots and actually embraces them.
For more on the subject, see Bradford the Messiah? and Basking in Bradford's Glow.
Below: "Cherokee Nation Chief Chad Smith is shown from behind as he wears a t-shirt with Cherokee Nation citizen and Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford's name and jersey number written in the tribe's alphabet. Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 in Hollywood, Fla."