Continuing the year-round efforts in the fight for social justice, the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative in partnership with the Players Coalition this week officially added four more grant recipients to its nation-wide roster of grassroots organizations focused on strengthening communities through education, economic advancement, police-community relations and criminal justice reform.
The additions of educational and economic advancement-focused organizations Year Up, Wall Street Bound, Free Minds Book Club and Get Schooled are part of another $20 million in new grants and partnership renewals handed out by the league this year.
Since 2017, Inspire Change and the Players Coalition have provided more than $180 million to 37 national grant partners as part of the $250 million, 10-year commitment made by the NFL’s owners to support the social justice efforts of the players.
Each year, the NFL’s Social Justice Working Group, which is led by Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, New Orleans Saints owner Gayle Benson, Cleveland Browns co-owner Dee Haslam, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan as well as linebacker Demario Davis of the Saints, the Cardinals’ Kelvin Beachum, the San Francisco 49ers’ Josh Norman and retired NFL players Anquan Boldin and Aeneas Williams, reviews submissions and requests from players and other members of the NFL community. They then vote on the organizations they feel best fits the pillars of the Inspire Change mission.
In all, the NFL and its players have awarded 1,800 grants since forming the Inspire Change partnership.
“I think society and the fans got to the point where it’s put up or shut up and the league is really putting their money where their mouth is,” Beachum told USA TODAY Sports. “It’s not just fluff. It’s finding ways to collaborate with players and partners and grass-roots organizations. It’s not just words. Being able to serve in an impactful way and grant out this much money over the last couple years is a huge feat.”
He continued, “This work, with social justice becoming such a huge topic as of late and a close eye being on the NFL, being able to prove that the work that is being done by these organizations are, being able prove what the money being poured into these organizations is doing, that is most gratifying. … For me, education is where I spend a lot of my time, so being able to see, from an education standpoint, how we’re almost three years in now and seeing the benefits of the education program and how some of these kids are now about to be going into the workforce and be positive contributors, it’s very rewarding.”
This year’s four new partners all focus on education and career advancement.
Year Up, which is based in Boston, helps provide young adults of color with marketable job skills and education and helps them find employment and internships at top companies with higher wage gains.
Wall Street Bound, based in New York and Concord, California, offers young adults in communities made up predominantly of people of color with career path workshops focused on financial services fields.
Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop, based in Washington, D.C., works with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated youths and young adults in the areas of literacy arts, workforce development, trauma healing and advocacy through 12-week, in-house peer support training programs.
Get Schooled, headquartered in New York and Seattle, uses digital programming to help give underserved youth access to jobs and college.
“We’re always on the lookout for innovative organizations and innovative programs and fit with the four pillars of our work,” Anna Isaacson, the NFL senior vice president of social responsibility, told USA TODAY Sports. “This year we found four really amazing programs both small and large scale that work well in the education side but also at the intersection of education and economic advancement, and those are two pillars that are really important for us moving forward.”
The next two weeks, NFL players and staff members will wear Inspire Change knit hats designed by the Players Coalition and New Era to create more awareness to the fight for social justice. The hats will bear the messaging, “Justice, opportunity, equity, freedom.” All of the proceeds from hat sales will be donated to the 37 Inspire Change grant recipients.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NFL, Players Coalition add four more Inspire Change partners