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NFL to tackle social issues

The Associated PressNEW YORK (AP) — The NFL is launching a social justice platform, with an emphasis on education, economic development and community and police relations.

The platform is called Inspire Change and includes the funding of grass-roots groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and Operation HOPE. It also will establish a digital learning curriculum for African-American history in 175 underserved high schools.

The league announced the initiative Friday in connection with its 32 teams and the Players Coalition, a group of players that works for social justice.

Inspire Change is the latest step for the league and the players after they established a working relationship in October 2017 following player demonstrations for social justice during the national anthem — a topic that drew attention from the White House.

“This launch involves new grants, new African-American history education programs in schools, grants with organizations we have not worked with before and who are doing the work on the ground, and PSAs on broadcasts beginning with this weekend’s playoff games,” said Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility.

“You have to really take the time to understand the topic, you can’t just dive in. We really took the time to meet with and talk to advocates and community leaders and to decide the most important aspects to focus on under the broad social justice umbrella.”

The league’s financial commitment in 2018 was $8.5 million, plus an additional $2 million for NFL Foundation grants for clubs, former players and active players. For the 2019 fiscal year, that will increase to $12 million overall. But those figures don’t include the funds raised collaboratively by clubs and players as part of the social justice matching funds program each club has established.

Former player and players association chief Troy Vincent, now the league’s pro operations head, emphasizes how much work has been done and continues to be done by the players. This week, he was told by Players Coalition cofounder Anquan Boldin the NFL is still “on point” with its initiatives.

Vincent, who grew up outside Philadelphia, didn’t understand the complexities of the incarceration rate and the bail system. He notes how opening of communication between the league office and teams and communities has helped steer the social justice movement.

“What we learned is that every community knew the grass roots organizations in their respective neighborhoods that were doing the work, the daily hands-on work,” Vincent said. “Working with the larger organizations gave us a national view.”

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