Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports, September 20, 2017
Current and former NFL players campaigning for racial equality and criminal justice reform wrote a lengthy memo to league commissioner Roger Goodell officially seeking overt league support in their effort, including an endorsement for an activism awareness month.
It was endorsed by four players: Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, former Buffalo Bills wideout Anquan Boldin and Eagles wideout Torrey Smith.
“To be clear, we are asking for your support,” a portion of the memo reads. “We appreciate your acknowledgement 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.
The memo was divided into three major parts: an overview of current player activism; a call for specific efforts and resources from the NFL to aid that activism; and a request for a league-wide initiative dedicating the month of November to activism awareness – similar to the league’s support of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.
While it is unknown how Goodell responded, the commissioner and Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie recently attended a “listen and learn” tour in Philadelphia on Sept. 12, organized by Jenkins, Boldin, Smith and attended by teammates Chris Long and Rodney McLeod. The focus of the meeting, which was recently posted on the Eagles’ Facebook page, was to talk with Goodell and Lurie about work the players have been doing in the Philadelphia community to revamp criminal justice reform in the city.
Goodell has also appeared to be more expansive in recent comments regarding some of the issues raised in the August memo. Most specifically, a statement in support of Michael Bennett, who was detained by the Las Vegas Police Department in August in a dispute that’s still under investigation. Bennett accused the Las Vegas police of racially profiling him during the incident.
“Michael Bennett represents the best of the NFL – a leader on his team and in his community,” Goodell said in a statement supporting Bennett after the incident came to light. “Our foremost concern is the welfare of Michael and his family. While we understand the Las Vegas police department will address this later this evening, the issues Michael has been raising deserve serious attention from all of our leaders in every community. We will support Michael and all NFL players in promoting mutual respect between law enforcement and the communities they loyally serve and fair and equal treatment under the law.”
Time will tell whether Goodell’s most recent dialogue with players can accomplish that – or whether the league is ready to answer the call for more overt support of player activism.