The NFL has finalized plans to partner with players on social justice issues, announcing a "Let's Listen Together" initiative that will publicize the players' work on social and racial equality.
The effort is a product of months of discussions between commissioner Roger Goodell and a group of players led by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and retired receiver Anquan Boldin. Owners earmarked $89 million over a seven-year period for the project, according to ESPN's Jim Trotter and Jason Reid. The final structure includes plans for digital content, brand spots, social media support and individual letters from players and owners describing why social justice is a priority.
"The collaboration between the NFL and its players should be celebrated, as it's the first professional league or entity that has taken the concerns of its players and put resources behind it," Boldin said in a statement. "Our country has some real issues when it comes to social and racial equality that must be addressed. The only way these issues will get solved is to fight together."
Said Goodell: "We are pleased to have developed a new initiative that focuses on creating meaningful solutions to improve our communities. In developing this plan, we have taken the lead from our players and are honored to join them in this work. Their work has deepened our understanding of the unique platform we have to help advance progress in a profound and unifying way."
The talks began amid a national discussion about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism. The league faced heavy pressure from President Donald Trump, among others, to force all players to stand during the anthem. The final "Let's Listen Together" initiative does not include that requirement, in part because the players involved do not represent all of the approximately 2,000 players on league rosters.
In addition to Jenkins and Boldin, the working group includes New York Jets offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum, Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, Jets quarterback Josh McCown and the retired Aeneas Williams. Owners on the committee include the Arizona Cardinals' Michael Bidwell, the Atlanta Falcons' Arthur Blank, the Cleveland Browns' Jimmy Haslam, the Jacksonville Jaguars' Shahid Khan and the Miami Dolphins' Stephen Ross.
"This working group and our Players Coalition task force are striving hard to change the narrative," Norman said. "From police/community engagement, criminal justice reform and to educational and economic advancement. It's about fostering wisdom and developing an understanding of your surroundings, your resources, and your options. We are a nation built on the backs of diverse people, led by diverse people; as a united people can reach out together and turn the key that unlocks the full potential of our country."