NFL players have embraced their activist side over the past year, and now four of them are asking the league to codify the trend into an official campaign.
Yahoo Sports obtained a 10-page memo sent from players Malcolm Jenkins, Michael Bennett, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, asking the league to support their activism efforts. Among the players’ requests is for a month officially dedicated to activism, the way October is recognized across the league as Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
To counter the vast amount of press attention being referred to as the “national anthem protests” versus the large amount of grass roots work that many players around the league have invested their time and resources, we would like to request a league wide initiative that would include a month dedicated to a campaign initiative and related events. Similarly to what the league already implements for breast cancer awareness, honoring military, etc, we would like November to serve as a month of Unity for individual teams to engage and impact the community in their market.
The players suggest activism efforts surrounding criminal justice reform at the local, state and federal levels, as well “police/community relations & community engagement.” The memo is thorough in its recommendations, plotting out how the NFL could support the causes, with a proposed timeline for execution. They lay out in meticulous detail the areas of the criminal justice system that could use fixing, including bail reform, excessive sentences, juvenile justice, police accountability and more.
To be clear, we are asking for your support. We appreciate your acknowledgment on the call regarding the clear distinction between support and permission. For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act. We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community. There are a variety of ways for you to get involved. Similar to the model we have in place for players to get involved, there are three tiers of engagement based on your comfort level.
Many, many people have said over the past year that they support Colin Kaepernick or Michael Bennett’s cause but don’t approve of the method of protest they chose. Well to all those people, here you go. Here are four players carefully delineating their objectives and politely requesting the league help them fight for criminal justice reform, an issue that is close to players’ lives and has as much bipartisan support as any in Washington.
The NFL will surely turn down almost all elements of this proposal because the league is much more interested in serving its corporate partners than its players. But you can’t knock Bennett, Jenkins, Boldin and Smith for trying.