Deion Sanders brings family values to TV

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If there was one takeaway from the inaugural season of Deion’s Family Playbook, it’s that the former pro footballer and baseballer is also a champion family man. As a single father raising 10 kids in Dallas, running his youth charity TRUTH, coaching and maintaining a long-distance relationship with girlfriend Tracey Edmonds, his schedule hasn’t been an easy one. But a stable family dynamic is one Deion Sanders maintains is important to showcase on television, especially since it hasn’t been present among the African American community in recent years.

“We had good times growing up, we had The Cosbys. We had Sanford and Son. We had The Jeffersons, and we had even Archie Bunker. He was cool,” Sanders told press in New York last week. “Their fathers were present. What are we looking up to now? I don’t see it. I don’t see any African American man on television that we can gravitate to.”

In Playbook‘s second season, Sanders hopes to build on that theme by showcasing his family and some of their growing pains. That includes “downsizing” from a home on 112 acres of property to a house that they’ll rent for two years until their new home (on 106 acres) can be built, and exploring the kids’ various interests and potential career paths as they look towards the future.

“I’m not perfect but I’m present, I’m gonna be there. Having custody of my babies is a major, major sign that I have been there and I have always been there,” Sanders explained. “That’s why I chose to do a show, not just to put myself on Front street, but we got to give someobody some direction. That’s what I do at the high school (I founded), that’s why I love coaching. That’s why I love those babies. They’re my life.”

The trials and tribulations showcased on a reality show may not compare to those on scripted television, but for Sanders (who  hasn’t yet seen Anthony Anderson’s black-ish on ABC but loves the concept), it’s about getting the family together and hopefully taking something away from it. When Playbook debuted last season it became the highest-rated freshman show in the OWN Network’s three-year history. In Season 2, Sanders promises his family will continue to experience the same challenges others do, including sneaking girls in, smoking and other “stupid stuff.” The 47-year-old points out how much the kid mentality has changed over the years, something he sees daily when he coaches.

“When we were shawties we were playing to get out. (These kids) are playing for themselves. We played to rescue mom,” Sanders said. “That’s why my mom (Connie) is still with me. That’s why she didn’t work another day in her life since ’89. Kids today, they playing for them, so they going quit when you have some turbulence or an obstacle.”

Other obstacles in store for the Sanders family in Season 2 of the OWN show include Deion’s long-distance relationship with Tracey–which has been going through a whole new series of tests now that the producer is also an Extra co-host and has to report to an actual boss–and son Shilo’s budding music career. These are high class problems for the regular class, perhaps, but if Sanders conveys his messaging as intended, the values will continue to translate.

“We just really want a brand that people can turn on and watch as a family,” he concludes. “It should be life lessons for adults as well as the kids. There is going to be a problem and hopefully by the end of the episode we give you a solution.”

Deion’s Family Playbook returns Saturday, Nov. 1 at 9 p.m. ET on OWN, and on Monday, Nov. 3 at 9 p.m. ET on OWN Canada.

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