As the NFL‘s protest saga rolls on with no immediate end in sight, it’s worth taking a moment to look back at the point of all these protests in the first place. Despite how many critics, including the president, have characterized them, the protests aren’t aimed at the American flag, but rather at systemic racial inequality.
Of course, kneeling and “awareness” do nothing to change the status quo, so the correct next question is: what, besides kneeling, are players doing to improve their worlds? Below is a list, by team, of efforts NFL players are making in the wake of the protests to improve their own communities.
(Note: This list doesn’t include the many individual charitable efforts that were already in motion before the protest story flared up, nor does it include charitable work not directly related to the protests, like Houston’s Deshaun Watson giving his first game check to help Hurricane Harvey victims or two Redskins helping an underprivileged boy buy an xBox. But those efforts continue, too.)
This list will be updated continuously; email us with news of additional efforts not listed.
The Cardinals are promoting ways in which charitable efforts in players’ hometowns impacted their lives. This week, Larry Fitzgerald will highlight the work Boys & Girls Clubs do in his hometown of Minneapolis. Last week, Karlos Dansby discussed his home state of Alabama:
— Arizona Cardinals (@AZCardinals) October 1, 2017
At least 15 Falcons, including Julio Jones, Ricardo Allen, Devonta Freeman and Mohamed Sanu have formed a committee to explore ways to enact positive social change in their community. The group held its first meeting Monday. “Our first goal is to show that we’re not attacking the flag,” Allen told ESPN. “We want to be really clear that we have over-the-top respect for veterans. But we are attacking social injustice. That is our only concern: social injustice.”
Several Ravens players recently joined Baltimore police on a trip to several West Baltimore schools to promote discussion and respect.
After several Browns protested during a preseason game and the Cleveland police union responded with criticism, Browns players, team owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam and Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams met to discuss ways to strengthen relationships between the police and the Cleveland community. Christian Kirksey, Jason McCourty and Randall Telfer were among the players who met with Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners shortly after the first round of post-Trump protests, according to ESPN.
The team has created The Colts Players Fund for Equality, designed to help charities “working to promote equality, improve relationships between law enforcement and the community and provide opportunities for minorities.” Team owner Jim Irsay contributed the first $100,000 to the fund. The Colts have also hosted “Coffee with a Cop” events designed to bring communities together.
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) October 11, 2017
Earlier this week, Malik Jackson rode along with a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office patrol officer and discussed with a local elementary school the need for continued conversations between players, police, and the community. “Guys can take knees and say stuff, but until you’re out in the community, giving back, taking time out of your day to try and change things and talk to people and see their understanding, I don’t think it’s as powerful,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of guys that are pretty proactive as far as considering themselves activists and wanting to change things in their community and just want a common understanding of what they see and what they feel. Hopefully we can continue this and change things.”
Kansas City Chiefs
Several players have expressed interest in the Kansas City Fraternal Order of Police’s offer for informal communication and in-school discussion designed to bridge gaps between the police and the communities they serve.
Los Angeles Rams
Though new to Los Angeles, the team is seeking to make connections with both local schools and local police departments. In September, receiver Paul McRoberts and members of the Inglewood Police Departmen visited local elementary schools as part of the team’s monthly Day of Service. Since January, the Rams have partnered with six local nonprofits and 25 area schools as part of the Day of Service program.
Team owner Stephen Ross created the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality, an organization dedicated to promoting equality through sports, in 2015. RISE is now meeting with rookies on all 32 teams to help make them aware of their platform and their ability to enact positive social change. In addition, RISE has helped fuel larger team discussions like one in Atlanta where players, coaches, and team owner Arthur Blank sat down together during the team’s bye week to discuss social matters and public responses. Earlier this week, several players, team executives, and Goodell joined members of the North Miami Police Department and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office for an event and ride-along designed to show support for one another.
New England Patriots
Devin McCourty and Matthew Slater were among the players who met with Goodell and team owners shortly after the first round of post-Trump remarks protests, according to ESPN. McCourty was also among a number of players who contributed $20,000 to get a new Texas youth football league off the ground after an earlier season was canceled due to repercussions from the protests.
New York Giants
Linebacker Jonathan Casillas was one of the players who met with commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners shortly after the first round of post-Trump remarks protests, according to ESPN.
Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith were two of four players who signed a memo to Goodell seeking far-reaching involvement from the NFL on matters of awareness, political action, financial dedication and specific periods of time devoted to social injustice, per a Yahoo Sports report. Chris Long was one of the players who met with Goodell and team owners shortly after the first round of post-Trump remarks protests, according to ESPN. Long has also agreed to donate all of his 2017 game checks to charitable efforts, some in Charlottesville and some to other cities where he’s played.
San Francisco 49ers
Although he’s no longer a member of the team, Colin Kaepernick remains most closely associated with the 49ers, the team he took to the Super Bowl a few years back. Kaepernick, still unsigned, has donated nearly a million dollars to various charitable efforts, from starvation relief in Somalia to Girls’ Clubs in New York City. Shortly after Kaepernick began protesting in 2016, 49ers CEO Jed York pledged $1 million, split evenly between the San Francisco Foundation and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to help facilitate communications between the police and the communities. The 49ers have also participated in a number of other outreach events, including a $140,000 grant to subsidize all San Francisco Police Athletic League events for underprivileged youth for three years.
Seattle has launched the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, designed “to create lasting change and build a more compassionate and inclusive society.” The Fund will coordinate with the Seattle Foundation, which manages more than $1 billion in donations, to improve relations and conditions in Seattle. In addition, Michael Bennett was one of four players who signed a memo to Goodell seeking far-reaching involvement from the NFL on matters of awareness, political action, financial dedication and specific periods of time devoted to social injustice, per a Yahoo Sports report. More recently, Doug Baldwin and Goodell signed their names to a letter to Congress seeking reform of sentencing guidelines for nonviolent offenders.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.
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