The National Football League (NFL), announced it will commit $250 million over 10 years to a fund to combat systemic racism.
The NFL was at the center of an issue in 2016 when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began taking a knee in a silent protest of police brutality. He was essentially blackballed from the sport for it.
Last week, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell apologized for not listening to players when it came to the protests. The apology came after a group of black players demanded the league apologize and admit wrongdoing in the Kaepernick situation. According to an NFL spokesperson, the league would be willing to work with Kaepernick on social justice initiatives.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today without the work Colin and other players have led off,” the spokesperson said. “That is a key point here. We listened to our players. We needed to listen more, we needed to move faster. We heard them and launched a social justice platform because of what Colin was protesting about. The players have always been an essential piece of this effort and this campaign. It would be awesome to engage Colin on some of the work we are doing. He’s doing real impactful work. Getting him in some way would be amazing for us. There’s a lot of work to do to get to that point. We’re certainly open and willing to do that.”
The league will expand on a $44 million commitment it made to social justice programs in 2017. The previous money funded 20 national social justice grant partners and made matching contributions to 350 local grassroots organizations identified by players and former players.
The league also announced it will continue to leverage NFL Network and its other media properties to “place an increased emphasis on raising awareness and promoting education of social justice issues to our fans.”
“As someone who has personally lived through episodes of racism and injustice, and can unfortunately relate to what the majority of the NFL players encounter on a daily basis, I can say with complete conviction that we now have a real effort at the NFL to bring real and overdue change,” Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan said. “Results won’t come automatically. Success will require constant attention, partnership and hard work. But, as a league, we’ve never been in a better position to answer our obligation to the payers, everyone who loves the NFL, and to the community we serve.”
NFL Struggles With Diversity At Top Positions
The league has struggled in its past attempts to diversify parts of its operations, include coaching positions and upper management. While the players in the league are overwhelmingly African American, there are currently just two African American head coaches. Mike Tomlin, who coaches the Pittsburgh Steelers and Anthony Lynn, who coaches the L.A. Chargers.
There are also only two black general managers. Andrew Berry, the G.M. of the Cleveland Browns and Chris Grier, the G.M. of the Miami Dolphins. Will McClay, the scouting director for the Dallas Cowboys, is considered by many to be the Cowboys G.M. although owner Jerry Jones has the title.
The NFL has tried to get more minority head coaches with its Rooney Rule, a policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation jobs. The rule was named after Dan Rooney, the former owner of the Steelers and chairman of the league’s diversity committee.
The rule, however, has not worked as hoped. Many teams looking for a new coach will interview a minority candidate first, essentially clearing the requirement before conducting a serious search. The Cowboys did this at the end of the 2019 season, interviewing former Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, a Black candidate, before interviewing and hiring Mike McCarthy.