A year and a quarter after Colin Kaepernick first knelt for the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racial injustice, the NFL will reportedly donate $89 million over seven years to social-justice causes pushed by a coalition of players.
According to ESPN, Eagles cornerback Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin guided the league to this package of causes, which includes criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education. This will reportedly be the NFL’s largest contribution to a given issue.
Per ESPN, the players did not explicitly agree to cease protests during the national anthem, though the league hopes they will do so anyway.
The NFL’s donation represents a form of validation for the protest movement. The players have taken all kinds of abuse and criticism for demonstrating during the national anthem, but in the end that activism won causes they care about tens of millions of dollars. Many critics have suggested players should be taking action, not protesting, but the truth is that protest drove action, as it often does.
We should note that not all NFL players, or even all NFL player activists, were happy with this resolution. 49ers safety Eric Reid and Dolpins safety Michael Thomas announced Wednesday they were withdrawing from the Jenkins- and Boldin-led Players Coalition over disagreements in the group’s tactics and goals.
Via ESPN, here is what the NFL’s donation will look like:
Under the league’s proposal, the $89 million has been earmarked over a seven-year period for both national and local projects. On the national level, owners this year will allocate $5 million, with their commitment growing annually and maxing out at $12 million per year from 2021 through 2023.
At the local level, owners would put up $250,000 annually and expect players to match that amount, totaling $500,000 for each team. Players and owners can exceed that amount if they choose, with no matching requirement. In addition, there would be other fundraising opportunities, including telethons and auctions of jerseys worn in games.
The $73 million in national funding has been vetted and approved, a league source said. However, the owners must vote on the matching-funds component on the local level and will do so at their March meetings.
This donation from the NFL is probably not the end of the players’ campaign to use their platforms for social justice (nor should it be), but it certainly seems like at least an incremental victory for their cause.