Principe on CFL: Creating good from tragedy

November 10, 2012, 1:05 AM

In my world, the only deals I cover are between teams; a passing on of players, picks or cash that, in a worst case scenario ends, in the death of a career, not a person.

Recently, I sat down with Shamawd Chambers, wide receiver for the Edmonton Eskimos and the topic was a deal. It involved cash, drugs and his brother Jonathan.

“He had a good soul and a good heart but trouble always seemed to find him,” said Chambers of his older brother of three years.

The Chamber boys were born and raised in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto. That’s where they lived before moving to another Toronto area neighborhood called Markham. Nancy, the boys’ mom, was looking for a better place to raise her family. As a single parent she worked as many as three jobs to help make ends meet so a family member from Jamaica moved to Canada to help out.

While Shamawd threw himself into sports, it was his brother Jonathan that needed more help. You’ve heard the story so many times before. Someone falls into the wrong crowd, leading them down the path to destruction. That’s what happened to Jonathan Chambers.

“He was the middle man in a drug deal. He knew the dealer and the buyer so they wanted him to help make it happen,” the Edmonton Eskimos receiver explained. Jonathan provided the cash from one side to the other and the drugs came in return.

The problem was the buyers paid for the drugs with counterfeit money. That’s something Jonathan didn’t know until the dealer told him it was up to him to make good on the bad debt.

“He owed them 30,000 dollars or a kilo and a half of drugs,” said Shamawd. “My brother didn’t have either. He called so many people to try and come up with the cash but it was too much.”

And in the end it was too late. Jonathan Chambers’ body was found in a snow covered area in the city of Barrie, Ontario in March of 2007.

“They shot him 5 times even though he was dead after the first bullet,” is the matter of fact way Chambers described the death of his brother.

“I remember the detectives coming to our house. I heard my mom scream. I ran upstairs to console her. I’ll never forget that day.”

Here we are now, years after the life of Jonathan Chambers was taken and Shamawd has become an advocate against the use of drugs and guns. The little brother also wears a t-shirt under his equipment with a picture of Jonathan and R.I.P. on it as a way to remember a brother who grew up with the same privileges, or lack thereof, as Shamawd who is now considered on track to a good career in the CFL.

This weekend in Toronto, Chambers’ mom, his grandmother and other family members will be there to watch Shamawd and the Eskimos take on the Toronto Argonauts in the East Division semifinal. His brother will be there too, but only in spirit.

Chambers has taken his life experiences and has slowly started working on a book about the tragedy.

“I don’t feel like a victim, I don’t want to feel like a victim,” the 22-year-old said. “What happened was tragic but I’d like to turn it into something that I can learn from and so can others. There are people who have it worse than me.”

Those in the world of sports might not agree. Chambers’ approach is to make something good happen so that the death of his brother can make a difference, even if Jonathan Chambers couldn’t do that for himself.

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