At the end of November, the NFL and a group of players agreed to partner on a plan to address social justice issues, with the league contributing $89 million over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community relations and education. The agreement calls for national funds to be allocated accordingly: 25% to the United Negro College Fund; 25% to Dream Corps and 50% to the Players Coalition.
This plan surpasses the NFL’s contributions to Salute to Service or Breast Cancer Awareness, but it will not replace these causes. On paper, it’s a great pledge extended from the league. They had no responsibility to make donations to social justice issues – if the players had wanted, they could have used their time and money to raise awareness and funds for causes near and dear to them. The agreement does not include language calling for players to end protests during the national anthem in exchange for funds. However, the NFL hopes this olive branch will end the peaceful protests.
When you dig a bit deeper into the numbers, there is some skepticism by players. Essentially, each owner is willing to give roughly $400,000 per year over the course of the plan to make the national anthem protests go away. Considering the NFL ratings are down and advertisers are threating to pull out, this seems like a no-brainer for owners. Players have taken notice and many have pulled out of the Players Coalition because they don’t feel like the owners are doing enough. As a result, some of the most prominent members such as Eric Reid, Michael Thomas and Russell Okung have left the coalition because they had a different vision for how to work with the league.
Okung told Pro Football Talk, “I think you’ve got to keep in mind who started this whole thing, who sort of put himself on the line,” Okung said. “There’s definitely some respect there. I believe this is the same league who has effectively blackballed him. So when you’re dealing with a certain group of people, this entity as a league — you try to keep in mind, is this a reparation, or just $89 million? Reparation extends beyond just dollars and cents, in real change in policy and lobbying. I think that should be more at the forefront of what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
On paper, this agreement should be celebrated. Only few people know if this is truly a landmark moment for players and owners to come together to make a difference or if it’s more of a ploy to end the protests to keep advertisers happy, and ultimately, increase revenues for the league. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but for a league that is always focused on the bottom line, I tend to believe this is more a financial decision more than anything else. Rather than this being an “either-or” situation, I’d like to see the league still allow players to protest and use their given platform in a positive way.
NIKE believes in the power of sport to unleash human potential