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Warrick Dunn: 'I grew up in a poor community, I understand the struggle'

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Former All-Pro NFL running back Warrick Dunn joined Yahoo News to discuss race and inequality in a Juneteenth special, "Soul of America." 

“I understand the importance [of giving back],” Dunn said. “I grew up in a poor community, I don’t come from a lot, but at the same time I understand what the struggle is and I understand what people’s issues are.”

After an impressive 12-year playing career in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, Dunn became a businessman and launched several successful philanthropic efforts.

Dunn founded his own charity organization, Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC), back in 2002. The organization addresses the cycle of generational poverty within the United States by giving free financial literacy classes, awarding scholarships, and assisting with down payments.

“Nothing is for free,” Dunn said. “You have to do things on your own to earn this assistance, but you have to have someone there willing to help and help push you down the road.”

He stressed the importance of education in closing income and wealth disparities, especially given that Black Americans make significantly less and hold less wealth than whites and other minorities.

“You have to educate,” Dunn said. “Bring people along with you so that they’re part of your growth, they’re part of the process, and they’re part of the growth of the economy overall.”

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 09: Warrick Dunn attends the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson Of The Year 2019 at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on December 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year 2019)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 09: Warrick Dunn attends the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson Of The Year 2019 at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on December 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year 2019)

Financial literacy is a crucial part of this mission, Dunn said. “The younger generation are really focused on how they can make a quick dollar. The focus should be, ‘What is my long term goal?’ If you can get individuals to think more about spending money on needs instead of the things that they want, you can accomplish that.”

Dunn’s financial literacy program, Count on My Future, aims to teach families how to spend and save wisely. It connects people to financial resources, such as advisers, and provides them with funds to invest. Another program, called Home for the Holidays, promotes home ownership and provides resources for low-income individuals to grow their wealth.

“If you can spread the wealth, I think you have the opportunity to educate more people and get more people involved in the cause,” Dunn said.

Watch Yahoo's Soul of America Juneteenth special
Watch Yahoo's Soul of America Juneteenth special

Ihsaan Fanusie is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @IFanusie.

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