Paralyzed Athlete Rocky Clark: Insurance Runs Out on His Mother

Rocky Clark

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University – Scholarship in Action 

Note: To help Rocky Clark and his family, please visit

The story of Rasul "Rocky" Clark is a cautionary tale to all the mothers who send their sons to the football field on Saturday afternoon. Ten years ago, Clark was living the dream of many African American males: he was one of the stars of his high school football team, playing the game as running back.

Rocky’s dream came to an end with one hit too many. The player was paralyzed from the neck down, rendering him unable to move, walk, stand up, or use his arms for the rest of his life. He will never run down the field, experience sex, wash himself or even breath properly again. He has one lung, and his life expectancy dropped dramatically on the day of his horrible injury. In fact, part of the reason his family is now broke is because medical experts and insurance companies didn’t expect him to last for even a decade.
Rocky just found out that his $5 million dollar insurance policy has reached the lifetime maximum, meaning that his insurer is not going to pay anymore of his expenses.

"I was told I’d be taken care of all of my life," said Clark, who is now 27 years old. "That was one thing that brought me comfort. I knew I’d be OK. Now it seems like I’m being penalized for living too long. That’s how I see it."

Clark now has Medicaid, which is a far cry from the high quality coverage he had before. His situation has re-ignited the debate regarding lifetime caps of insurance companies and rising medical costs. The recent ban on lifetime limits included in health care reform came into effect after Clark’s policy was created, meaning that he doesn’t benefit from the change.

Clark’s right lung has serious damage, so he is constantly faced with pneumonia and ends up in the hospital several times per year. His mother has fallen behind on the bills as she tries to find ways to pay for his medical coverage. She has not even paid her property taxes for the last two years.

When Clark’s policy came to an end, his insurance company, Health Special Risk, Inc., sent him a two-sentence letter stating: "the maximum medical benefit under this policy has been processed and no further benefits are available."

The case of Rocky Clark should give all of us a moment of pause as the black community strives to send more of our boys onto the football field than into the classroom. We cheer for these kids like heroes at every game, and then laugh it off when the child has grades that are clearly inadequate. What’s saddest is that the average NFL athlete has a career span that is less than four years long, meaning that even for our kids who get a chance to live out "the dream," their dream eventually turns into a nightmare.
The recent suicide of former NFL star Dave Duerson, who is suspected to have suffered tremendous brain damage from years on the football field, is another example of things that can go wrong from pushing our kids into such a barbaric sport. Rocky Clark’s battle with insurance companies leads us to also wonder whether it makes sense for us to allow capitalist motivations to guide our health care systems. Human life should not be managed with a price tag.
Two things that the Rocky Clark situation tells me are that:

a) If I ever have more kids, they will NOT play football. The risks are just too great, and I don’t want to see my child lying in a hospital bed all day, unable to stand up and live life. There are other ways to enjoy sports without getting pounded in the head all day long.
b) All the effort our kids put into practicing and playing sports would be better spent pushing for academic achievement.

While most athletes end up broke and unemployed, Rocky’s doctors will never be broke, and neither will the attorneys representing many of the black males who end up in the criminal justice system. We’ve got to find a way to get in on the profitable side of this terrible game of American capitalism. Right now we’re feeding ourselves the short end of the stick.

Dr. Boyce Watkins on AOL Black VoicesDr. Boyce Watkins is a professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.



Filed under African Americans

10 responses to “Paralyzed Athlete Rocky Clark: Insurance Runs Out on His Mother

  1. ‘African-Americans in peril’, should be the topic of an overall story. We are victims of this Anglo-Elite, and highly racist, highly wealthy, highly volatile, (capitalist) society.

    Our children (people) are more susceptible to all of the country’s negatives than any other ‘culture’. We rarely hear of the youth who lose in their sports activities and in some cases lose severely such as Clark.

    As we focus on Clark, and some of us send his family financial aid (he should receive from our collective society), we must think about all of the other black people who suffer and die in this vapid society.

    Remember that there are black people dying in these illegal wars and some coming back torn, distorted, broken, and in the same condition as Clark. The “Obama” government is not supporting them properly either.

    There are numerous incidents of ‘blacks’ being shot, beaten, and left handicapped or dead by a highly conditioned Anglo-Elite racism inspired police institution and its connected judicial system.

    There are black people who have been corralled into a new corporate prison system of slavery. We know the Elite own the prisons. Hell they own practically everything and everyone! These people suffer all sorts of physical and mental abuses we will rarely hear about.

    The military is filled with ‘blacks’ who have no idea what it took to create their mindset to a phase of serving the very people who abuse them. They are further pushed into service by the lure of a better life and the purposely imposed lack of jobs in civilian society. Many will suffer severely, some will pass through seemingly unscathed, but they are also damaged.

    There are black people under attack around the world! The same people who own the U.S. and control every political/government office send our black people off to attack other black, brown, and yellow people. Blacks on both sides will suffer terrible injuries and death.

    Blacks or African-Americans should have formed the kind of safety net and cohesion that the Jews have built, but our situations are not the same, our cultures are not the same, and the respect this nation has for our perspective “races” are not the same. Unlike us, the Jews were not American slaves, were not stripped of culture, language, beliefs, and finally unity. Jewish unity is very much intact and fortified, whereas our social structure is fractured to the nth degree.

    There are many facets to this tragedy that young Clark suffers that have not yet been brought to our attention, some of them are in this article, but we should understand that every facet of our lives here in the U.S. is linked negatively in so many ways, and we, (regardless of whether some want to accept it or not), are constant victims, not of our own volition but from the constant scheming and abusive Anglo-Elite and its hoards of mindless ‘white’ racist haters, who are teemed with the most ignorant of us and others.

    As the Anglo-Elite and their cohorts pummel the nation, ‘blacks’ (African-Americans) will continue to suffer the brunt of the vicious onslaught.
    Alas some of us on different levels of society will ignore, some will help, some will live lavishly, and some will deny, or reject the notion. Finally millions of poor and weakened ‘blacks’ will suffer without any help from anyone.

  2. Nessielittle

    Such a sad story, where is all the fundraising, we are always ask to help out in others events, why not start a nation fund for him. All I can say I wish him the best, because as he is prone to infection, he will surely run into it again, the only different now is, he is no longer covered and surely will not get the best of care. Bless his Mom for being so strong.

  3. The NAACP should have tried to establish the same kind of safety measure as the ‘Jewish Defense League’, but alas there is great division in our ranks and for good reason. We are divided on purpose

  4. In reading this article, my heart was touched with empathy for the Mother and her paralyzed Son ” Rocky Clark “. It is a known fact this country has a high deficit… However, since we send millions out of the country to help rebuild and restore, certainly there should be some type of exception to the rule with the Insurance Carrier or within our government to find monetary funds for this young man. As stated earlier, Medical professionals didn’t expect him to Live but we know who holds his future and has Rocky Clark in the palms of his hand and that is non other than God. This Country needs to do a better job of taking care of our own, before we reach out from our Homeland to help others..It is good to help others.. I believe in Humanitarian efforts…I Support Humanitarian efforts… But, if we can bring a child from another country for Restoration and Cosmetic Surgery, and no expense to the Family…. Let’s take care of young men, young women, boys and girls that I need our help of all races and cultural backgrounds.

  5. yonah hall

    Where is his father?

  6. Carolann

    We are NOT victims….African-Americans are in charge of our own destiny. We bring into our lives what we focus upon……We should look in the mirror and determine what it is each one of us can do to make a difference. I teach, both paid and volunteer. I believe education is the key(on all fronts) and more attention should be given to providing a quality education for each and every child regardless of the socioeconomic level. Knowledge is pwoer. Each one reach one, teach one is the way to go. We can’t sit idoly by and watch our race go to “hell in a handbasket”. Let’s ban together and strengthen our race…divided we fall…but together we can make a difference.

  7. Pingback: Rocky Clark: Paralyzed Athlete Needs Our Help – Dr. Boyce Watkins Blog

  8. Theressa Wesley

    What a terrible loss! Now, this young man, in the prime of his life, must wonder how much worse the quality of his life will get while his mother tries desparately to make ends meet financially.

    I wish I could help finanicially, but I’m sorry I can’t. Hopefully, someone who has the resources will open their hearts to this unfortunate family. I’m praying for their strength during this very difficult battle.

  9. annetteclark

    Iam his mother and father he comes by to see himm onhis terms okay

  10. maggie bliss

    Is there a fundraiser or a way to donate? I don’t have much but would like to help.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s