PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — There’s no bigger rivalry than the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.
But it’s what one Steelers fan did off the field that is going viral.
Ernest Freeman, a successful software consultant, says he had an extra ticket to the Steelers-Ravens game at Heinz Field on Christmas Day.
He was going to sell the ticket, that was until he says he listened to Johnny Gill’s “Give Love On Christmas Day.” There’s a line in the song about giving love to the “man on the street” and that gave Freeman an idea.
Instead of selling the ticket and making hundreds of dollars, he invited someone off the streets to his first Steelers game.
“No matter what you’ve experienced in life or what you’re going through or currently going through, you can always give back,” Freeman said.
Freeman posted this photo on Facebook with Ricky Rapp, aka Stretch, as he’s known on the streets of Pittsburgh. The post has gone viral. By Wednesday evening, it had more than 18,000 likes and nearly 5,000 shares.
The 43-year-old man had never been to a Steelers game before despite living in Pittsburgh his entire life.
“It was amazing. You couldn’t ask for a better game, a better day,” Rapp said. “Having Mr. Freeman there was just two people chilling having a good time.”
Rapp told Freeman that another person on the street would watch his backpack while he was at the game.
“I offered to buy him anything he wanted during the game and he never once asked for anything, nor did he accept any offers of food or money after the game. He told me the gift of being invited inside the stadium to watch the game was the best Christmas gift ever for him,” Freeman said.
Rapp also told Freeman about how 12 of his friends had lost their lives to heroin this past year. He said he spent many years homeless, living a life of drugs, crime and prison. But he’s now turning his life around. He’s found subsidized housing, is going to school and he’s helping others who are trapped on the streets.
“I just don’t forget where I come from. To me, you don’t leave anybody behind. If you can help somebody, help them,” said Rapp.
Turns out, Freeman and Rapp have a lot more in common than you’d think.
“I’m the oldest of a single mom, who grew up in government co-op housing. And my mom took in three or four families during the time that we were there in this small place,” Freeman said.
“That man really trusted me,” said Rapp of Freeman. “There was no doubt or anything like that. It was a really great day.”
Freeman said the look on Rapp’s face during the game as he looked around the stadium was something he’ll never forget.
“It reminded me of my own blessings. It also reminded me of what this day is all about in that the ability to give is a blessing in itself,” Freeman posted.
Rapp now helps out with an organization called Mission from Mars. They feed the homeless, and get them medical help when they need it.
“To me that was like the highlight of the whole year, for many years. I didn’t know it was going to blow up like this though,” Rapp said of the kind gesture.
For Freeman, Rapp’s desire to give back is the same spirit that prompted Freeman to give him a ticket and a great Christmas.