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“We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. Growing up, I made quite a few myself. Sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down. I had a tendency sometimes to make excuses for me not doing the right thing.”– President Barack Obama

I hope Antonio Cromartie is serious about getting his life together. His kids need a reliable father.

Cromartie, a cornerback for the New York Jets, has 12 children by eight different women and now admits that he blew through $5 million in two years, much of it spent on cars and jewelry. He’s got so many kids that he struggled to remember the names of all of his children on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” back in 2010.

“I was out of control,” Cromartie told reporters. “I had two Dodge Chargers, probably spent $100,000 just fixing them up. I had a ’65 Caprice, which I spent $100,000 on. I had two BMWs, two Escalades. I remember [former Chargers teammate] Quentin Jammer used to tell me to slow down, but I couldn’t do it. I just loved spending money.”

But today, Cromartie, 32, says he’s a changed man. He just signed a 4-year $32 million deal, drives a Toyota Prius, and paid up his back child support with a $500,000 advance from the Jets.

“I’ll fill it up every 2 1/2 weeks or so, and I’m only spending 33 bucks, while everybody else is spending 80 or 90 bucks a tank,” he said. “Right now, I’m all about saving money . . . I try to put away as much money as I possibly can and live on a budget. I learned the hard way.”

Some folks are still criticizing Cromartie, but I commend him for recognizing his past mistakes, taking charge of his life, and moving forward. Cromartie says he doesn’t want to end up like so many other black athletes — broke and unable to earn a living after sports.

According to Newsday, Cromartie received help from a financial adviser to set up a program where Cromartie’s salary goes to his financial adviser’s office, and his financial adviser pays all the bills and puts money into Cromartie’s investments, all the while providing Cromartie with monthly reports to show where the money goes.

“The arrangement includes monthly child support payments for each of Cromartie’s children, all of whom will be provided for through college. Cromartie remains active in the lives of all his children and he sees them regularly,” Newsday reported.

This goes to the heart of Cromartie’s parental responsibilities: Will be provide for his children? And will he play an active role in their lives? It appears that Cromartie accepts his role as a father and that’s all anyone can ask of Cromartie.

Perhaps Cromartie took some advice from President Barack Obama who has spoken out repeatedly about black fathers taking responsibility for their children.

“I still wish I had a father who was not only present but involved,” Obama told graduates at Morehouse College last month.  “And so my whole life, I’ve tried to be for Michelle and my girls what my father wasn’t for my mother and me. I want to break that cycle. I want to be a better father, a better husband and a better man.”

More important than anything, Obama added, is family. “Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family,” he said.

Cromartie has certainly made his share of financial missteps, but what’s important now is that he learns from his past mistakes, embraces his children and his role as their father. Few folks get second chances in life, but with his new $32 million contract, I hope Cromartie has figured out the concept of acquiring generational wealth to help provide for his children for years to come.

What do you think?

(Photo: AP)

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