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Players Coalition Now Getting ‘Wins’
Jan 9, 2020, 6:28:00 AM

Players Coalition Now Getting ‘Wins’

With certain players getting banned for simply standing up for what they believe in, the league has been the centre of attention for some time now.

When some NFL players first approached NFL owners back in 2017 about asking for help in their fight for social justice, none of them knew what was in store for them or what would happen. They didn’t even have any clear solution on how to solve the problems concerning people of colour in communities across the country.

Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started talks about the need to address, solve, and combat ‘systematic oppression on people of colour’. Doing that caused him, along with other NFL players, to receive backlash and unnecessary flak from fans, NFL owners, and even President Donald Trump himself for supporting Kaepernick (even joining him) in protesting during the national anthem.

However, there were players who wanted to do more: players like Anquan Boldin, Malcolm Jenkins, Doug Baldwin, Kelvin Beachum, Demario Davis, Chris Long, Devin McCourty, Josh McCown, Rodney McLeod, Josh Norman, Torrey Smith, and Benjamin Watson also began looking for ways to make a greater impact. They believe the owners could actually help ‘further their reach’.

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Eventually, those players became known as the Players Coalition. They formed a partnership with the NFL and its owners and, in the spring that followed, agreed to donate approximately $90 million for programs to combat social inequality. ‘To be honest with you, we didn’t know what to expect going in’, said Boldin. ‘But I can tell you we’ve been pleasantly surprised. Some people were skeptical of us going into it, especially with us doing the partnership with the NFL. I don’t know, for whatever reason, people didn’t think it was genuine’.

At the time, some critics wrote off the players’ efforts simply as a PR stunt. Others believed that the league’s owners were trying to pacify players in order to stop them from protesting during the national anthem. Others, including Kaepernick and his close friend Eric Reid, accused some members of the Players Coalition of selling out. Entering the third year of the union’s existence, members of the Players Coalition and fellow socially active NFL players are seeing tangible proof of their intentions and efforts.

‘I can tell you over the three years, the work we’ve been doing, the partnerships we’ve made in this space, people can see these guys aren’t in it for a PR stunt’, said Boldin. ‘We’re in it to see our country change for the better … These communities have welcomed us. We’ve worked with a lot of grass-roots organizations, and they’ve been able to see our hearts, as well as us seeing theirs. We didn’t know what to expect going into it. But I’m proud of the relationships we’ve built over the last three years’.

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Since the partnership was created back in 2018, the NFL has awarded more than $25 million in grants to social justice organizations. Additionally, the league announced a relaunch of the Inspire Change initiative running up until the Super Bowl that will highlight the work players and teams are doing in their communities.

Words: Carlos Corpus

Images: PA