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Jet Daddy: Meet Caron Butler

Black fathers. They do not get the respect they deserve in our society, though statistics show they are just as, or more, involved in their children’s lives as their counterparts from other racial backgrounds.  But don’t just review the numbers, check out some of the dads JET is profiling in what we hope to become a recurring feature: JET Daddy. We are looking for pops that live for their kids and vice versa.

NBA star Caron Butler knows the meaning of tough love. Growing up without a father left the streets to raise him, but he managed to turn his life around for the better. The veteran pro athlete takes being a dad seriously, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to keep his children on the right track. JET spoke with Butler about the importance of being an active father and the importance of continuing a strong familial legacy.

Name: Caron Butler

Hometown: Racine, Wisconsin

How many kids? 5

Kid(s) Name(s), Age(s): Camary Butler, 21, James Butler, Jr. 16, Mia Butler, 12, Ava Butler, 6, Gia Butler, 4

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JET: What does fatherhood mean to you? 

Caron Butler: It means everything. Growing up without a father, I always knew all of the things that I wanted in life. And the void [of not having a father] was something that I always wanted to fulfill. It’s tough being available as much as you want with the job that we [NBA players] have —always running around and being on demand for the contracts that we’ve committed to. But at the same time, the point of emphasis is to just be there for my kids. Just [to be able to] play with them, feed them and do everything possible to put them in the best situation to succeed.

JET: You just mentioned that you grew up without your father and you’ve always spoken very openly about that fact. What did growing up without a dad feel like? 

Caron Butler: It was different. Praise God that I had my grandmother. My grandmother filled the void of my father, so I never really felt that “lack of” because you can never really miss what you never had. Growing up in the neighborhood, you didn’t see other males with their kids, so it wasn’t something that I questioned a lot. It wasn’t until I got older that I thought, “Hey, I got through that and I never really had a father,” but I used to think sometimes, “Man, it would be nice to go to the gym and play pick-up ball and learn the skills and work on my craft with my dad. It would be nice to go fishing with my father or fix up a vehicle with my dad or learn [about life].” All of the things that I had to learn were from trial and error.

JET: When you found out that you were going to be a father for the first time, were you nervous since you didn’t have your dad in your life? 

Caron Butler: Yeah. I was really nervous, but I was excited at the same time. I was extremely young, though. The first time I fathered a child, I was 14.5 years old. So, I was nervous, but at the same time I said, “No matter what, I’m going to be in my child’s life. I’m going to be there for my child. I’m going to have fun and my fingerprints are going to be all over my kid’s life,” so that was the point of emphasis and that is still the point for me.

JET: What’s your advice to other young men who are trying to parent without ever having had a relationship with their fathers? 

Caron Butler: Man, embrace it. Being a father is one of the best blessings in the world. That’s our legacy. These are our descendants. They come from us. They’re an extension of us. They’re what we leave behind when we leave this earth. You want to plant the right seeds in your kids so they can continue on strong with your legacy and there’s nothing like it. Protect them, cherish every moment and expose them to all of the things we weren’t exposed to and just embrace it, because it’s a blessing to be a parent. Some people don’t get the luxury to have that. Some people can’t have kids.

JET: You just mentioned “planting the right seeds.” You’ve openly said you were selling drugs and went to jail as a youth, but you often credit those experiences with keeping you grounded. How do you raise grounded children as a celebrity parent? 

Caron Butler: I always tell my kids stories once they’re old enough. We always go back to the neighborhood and when they need to be humbled, I always humble them. They know it’s a blessing to have the things that we have but we haven’t always had this [lifestyle]. It’s a price that was paid by my mother and my grandmother and my great grandmother. All of them paid for us to be in this situation. We come from the cotton fields of Mississippi. We were picking cotton then migrated up to Wisconsin where they recruited some of my family members to be on the industry line. My grandmother preaches it to them all of the time, my great uncles talk to them, so our history is not distorted. So my kids appreciate everything and every blessing. They understand that it’s a gift to be in this situation and they don’t take it for granted.

JET: Your oldest children are standout athletes in their own right. Are you pushing them to live up to your accomplishments? 

Caron Butler: Well, I always tell them that we’ve established something special. We gave you guys a head start, but you have to be an asset to this family. I don’t encourage them to be just athletes; I encourage them to be anything. Whatever they want to do, we’re going to explore it. So, they’re going to find their niche and they’re going to move forward in life and I’m going to back them all of the way.

For more on Caron’s story, check out this EBONY.com exclusive on the star.

If you or someone you know wishes to be considered for JET Dad, send to digitalpitches@ebony.com with subject line: JET Dad.