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Spikes remembers Dad's lesson

11-15-01, 9:20 p.m.


The ugly news items from Takeo Spikes' alma mater read like a yellowed clipping out of the 1920s.

And it meant something to Spikes for a variety of reasons. Not least of which is he has become the most visible person raising funds for downtown Cincinnati's National Underground Railroad Freedom Center:

AUBURN, Ala. _ A photo from a Halloween party at Delta Sigma Phi shows three members posing. One in a Klan robe and hood, another in fatigues holding a rifle, and the third as a black man with a noose around his neck.

Some members of another frat, Beta Theta Pi, blackened their faces at their Halloween party and wore clothing with symbols and colors of a historically black frat on campus.

"They should kick every one of them out of school down there and not let them back into any college anywhere," said Spikes, the Bengals defensive captain four years out of Auburn. "Everybody is always preaching to do right. Do this and do that. And then you think with the world as bad as it is right now, you saw what happened, Sept. 11, and for them to go out and do that, what are you trying to prove?

"For all the prejudiced people," Spikes said, "you don't catch too many brave enough to do it in the South anymore. They can do whatever they want behind closed doors. But they got brave enough to do it. Now they should be brave enough to take the damn punishment."

The Auburn dateline means something to Spikes because when the Bengals play the Titans Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, Coca-Cola is going to hand the Freedom Center the first of two checks for $12,500.

Later in the season, Spikes will be on the field when Bengals' players present their contributions to the museum, which the club matches up to $75,000.

Later this month, Spikes will visit with 20 students from each of the inner city's four elementary schools to talk about the project.

Which is another reason why the disturbing dispatch from Auburn means something to Spikes. Jimmie Spikes, the father he lost to cancer last month, taught him the lesson long ago about education.

"Back in the day in the South, just by being the color you were, it was

going to be two strikes against you," Spikes said. "Just by being black. And being uneducated was another strike against you.

"My father would tell me, 'You can control what you can control. You can handle what you can handle, and
everything else is going to take care of it itself,'" Spikes said. "'You've got to get your education, where you can hold your own and be enlightened to what really goes on."

Jimmie Spikes never got a chance to go anywhere near a place like Auburn. His son figures he stopped school at about ninth grade to help his sharecropper family put food on the table. He got his break when the struggling mining business that moved into Sandersville, Ga., began to take off and his job in the mines paid off.

"I think that's where I got my attitude from," Spikes said. "It was tough for him and he was tough."

Which is why he doesn't mind commenting on what should be a yellowed clipping from the 1920s.

"For people who want to change, there is hope," Spikes said. "For people who don't want to change, there is straight up ignorance."

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