NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL has established a player-owner committee focusing on social and racial justice initiatives that Commissioner Roger Goodell cautions is just a start, with lots of work ahead.
Goodell credited “unprecedented dialogue” for helping players and owners get to the point of Tuesday’s announcement. He said the committee will focus on education, economic development, community and police relations and the criminal justice system.
“We need to know that we’re going to make significant progress as we have more meetings, as we get more focus on our efforts ...,” Goodell said on a conference call. “And frankly, we’ll get better.”
The league also said Tuesday it is beginning a “Let’s Listen Together” campaign that includes digital content and commercials highlighting player-led work on equality issues. That platform will include social media support and letters from players and owners.
Owners on the committee are Arizona’s Michael Bidwill, Atlanta’s Arthur Blank, Jacksonville’s Shahid Khan, Cleveland’s Jimmy Haslam and Miami’s Stephen Ross. Current players Chris Long, Josh Norman, and Kelvin Beachum, Pro Football Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams and former player Anquan Boldin are on the committee.
Blank said he was impressed with the consensus among owners and players at a meeting in December at the league office. The Falcons owner also sees these issues requiring sustainability.
“Clearly, we’re not at the end of the fourth quarter,” Blank said.
This season, many players took knees during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice, drawing rebukes from President Donald Trump.
Boldin says the initiative should be “celebrated” because the NFL is the “first professional league or entity that has taken the concerns of its players and put resources behind it.”
“We’re dedicated to making a difference in our communities,” Boldin said. “We’re dedicated to seeing a difference in our criminal justice system. We’re dedicated to educating not only ourselves, but the public as well how there are different biases when it comes to our criminal justice system. We’re excited about the partnership and the backing of the NFL that we have now.”
Linebacker Demario Davis of the New York Jets thanked owner Chris Johnson for sitting down with players and supporting them during sessions that included meetings with public defenders.
Defensive end Long credited Eagles teammate Malcolm Jenkins for his work and socially conscious team owner Jeffrey Lurie for his support as they work for “common sense reforms.”
Long noted Jenkins rounded up some of the Eagles for a trip to the state capital to meet with lawmakers hours after a Monday night game. He said some of the Eagles also have met Philadelphia police and attended bail hearings, which he called an arbitrary process.
“We do have a powerful voice,” Long said.