When Torontonians think of the Toronto Argonauts, and the Canadian Football League in general, there’s no doubt that the first name that comes to mind is none other than Michael “Pinball” Clemons. More than just a Canadian football legend in his own right, Clemons has also become known for his many philanthropic endeavors. He’s the co-founder of The Michael Pinball Clemons Foundation, an organization devoted to helping and empowering Toronto’s at-risk youth through education. He isn’t just the face of the non-profit organization but an active member as well – choosing to volunteer personally with the community.
In 2019, Clemons was officially named the new full-time general manager of the Argos, a position for which he was approached previously but declined. For Clemons, it’s not about the money nor the need for a job—he has a job already that he loves. For him, joining the Argos family, on the business side of things, is all about the love of the team and the need to improve performance.
At the Rally for Kids event, The Edge had a chance to catch up with Clemons to discuss his new gig and charitable goals.
First of all, congratulations on being named the new general manager for the Argos! How does that feel?
You know, it’s one of those things where you want to see your team doing well. So, I didn’t want to have this job, because my team’s not doing well, so we have to always put performance first. But we are starting to move into this and are certainly excited about the challenge. I would absolutely love to see my team doing well, (and) we’re going to definitely get there. Small steps (first)!
What’s your ultimate goal for the youth of the city, here at the Rally for Kids event?
Our ultimate goal is to raise funds for young people who are marginalized and who don’t have the same opportunities (as most of us), so we want to change this narrative. We don’t want to feel sorry for our youth, (but rather) we want to be proud of them, because they’re going on to post-secondary training – whether it be college, university, trades, or IT—whatever that might look like. And (ultimately) go into jobs that they desire and deserve. So that’s what our real goal here is – it’s to empower young people and not give them a handout but a hand up.
What do you think is one of the main obstacles facing youth in Toronto?
Well, I mean, there are multiple issues that face youth in Toronto. It’s really not so much about ‘what are they facing?’ But rather ‘how do we get (them) to the next level?’ We spend so much time talking about the issues and the problems, that we don’t get to the solutions. It’s time that we create solutions and begin to provide pathways for our young people to succeed.
On the business side, can you explain your method, entrepreneurial spirit, and how you became a success?
For me, we [at the foundation] try not to brag about that stuff (our successes) God has blessed us with. We have worked hard and tried to be diligent in those things (our mission), but we have also been blessed and are grateful for that. And so, with regard to the successes we’ve had, it couldn’t happen without God. Further to that, there are so many wonderful people who have been a part of our lives, who helped build (the organization), starting with our families. My mom was a single parent; and her parents and my wife’s parents didn’t have a whole lot but made a way for their eight kids. We have a story that is very organic, very grassroots that says – if you’re diligent, you keep moving, and keep working, you can make it (succeed).
Is that why you want to give back?
That is a big part of it. The reason that we want to give back is because we’ve been there.
Dontei Wynter | Staff Writer
Photos courtesy of: Toronto Argonauts Football Club (Argonauts.ca)