Apr 13, 2023 - Sports

NFL commits to address racial issues— externally and internally

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The NFL is renewing a partnership with a nonprofit led by current and former players to address racial issues and advocate for reform in the U.S.

Why it matters: To maintain the partnership with the Players Coalition, the NFL has had to show commitment to working on issues like systemic racism for the long haul, Anna Isaacson, NFL senior vice president of social responsibility, exclusively told Axios.

  • "What's really been reinforced is that these issues are entrenched in society and that they will take a long time to improve," Isaacson said.

Driving the news: The NFL's five-year extension with the Players Coalition is in addition to the league's $15 million grant through its Inspire Change initiative focusing on four pillars:

  • Fostering mentorship for better outcomes in education and beyond.
  • Providing transition support for the formerly incarcerated and advocating for key reforms to the criminal legal system, including pre-trial detention.
  • Creating changes in policing through law-enforcement community collaboration and expanded 9-1-1 response options.
  • Advancing access to financial literacy and career pipelines.

Flashback: In 2017, the NFL initially committed $90 million to social justice causes after players kneeled during the national anthem to raise awareness of issues including racial inequality.

Yes, but: The NFL is doing work externally in efforts to help others, but has work to do to solve their own problems, Kenneth L. Shropshire, professor emeritus at the Wharton Business School and previously a consultant with the NFL, tells Axios.

  • "They can certainly do a lot with ... messaging and impact in terms of role models their individual clubs have in their community."

What they're saying: The Players Coalition and the NFL have been working toward the same goal of addressing social justice issues but have done the work in different ways, Kelvin Beachum of the Players Coalition tells Axios.

  • "At the end of the day, it's about the impact, the impact that we're making, again, not only on the players and the teams but the entire community at large," he said.
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