Will the NFL’s social justice program deeply affect Black communities?

Jaime C. Harris | 5/24/2018, 1:34 p.m.
Colin Kaepernick remains without an NFL job. But the social justice movement he began has directly led to a seminal ...

Colin Kaepernick remains without an NFL job. But the social justice movement he began has directly led to a seminal agreement between the league’s owners and players. Tuesday, the NFL, in conjunction with its Players Coalition, announced an official partnership that will allocate roughly $90 million to address social injustice in the United States.

Only time will reveal whether the initiative will produce sustainable efficacy or become an unappealing finger painting placed inside an expensive picture frame, cover for a league composed of nearly 70 percent Black players juxtaposed with the 72 percent of Black males that make up the prison population in the State of Maryland.

How the funds will be applied and impending activities executed has yet to be publicly presented. Perhaps specific details will be communicated by owners and representatives of the Players Coalition this week as the NFL’s spring league meeting takes place in Atlanta.

The enterprise, a community improvement program, was forged as a result of player protests. The demonstrations were a response to a spate of shootings of Black men by law enforcement officers and other social ills. Spurred by Kaepernick beginning in the summer of 2016 when he sat, and then subsequently knelt, before the start of games during the playing of the ceremonial national anthem, the protests dramatically gained global attention through various social media platforms.

Like many large-scale endeavors, there will be discord and a differing of many opinions as to which organizations of various interests should be selected and awarded funding to carry out initiatives, as well as acrimony in developing a coherent and defining agenda.

The bickering began late last year when several players voiced their distrust of Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who retired after the 2016 season. Jenkins and Bolden formed the coalition last September and led players’ meetings with owners.

“The Players Coalition was supposed to be formed as a group that represents NFL athletes who have been silently protesting social injustices and racism,” read a Twitter message posted in November by then San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid and safety Michael Thomas, who at the time was a member of the Miami Dolphins but signed a two-year deal with the Giants in March, before they left the coalition.

The post continued, “However, Malcolm and Anquan can no longer speak on our behalf as we don’t believe the coalition’s beliefs are in our best interests as a whole.”

Some of the questions that should be answered and clearly explained to the public are the following: Will it be a transparent and objective undertaking in which a request for proposal process is conducted? Will the process be devoid of favoritism and possibly corruption as to not give organizations with ties to players and or owners an inherent advantage in securing grants? Will each recipient of a grant receive an equal share of the funding? Will there be a hard cap placed on how much money each organization can receive?

Although the concept of the partnership seems noble, the outcomes are what’s most significant.