NFL announces it will exceed $ 250 million pledge for social justice work


General view of the NFL Shield logo on the field before Super Bowl LV between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Kansas City Chiefs at Raymond James Stadium.

Kim Clement | USA TODAY Sports | Reuters

As the National Football League prepares to enter its 102nd season next week, the league says it remains committed to raising awareness about social justice issues and will not stop providing top-tier funding.

The NFL has said it will likely exceed its $ 250 million pledge done in 2020 before the 10-year term. Last year, the NFL increased its total to tackle issues in minority communities by funding businesses and programs dedicated to issues of systemic racism, criminal justice reform, and economic inequality.

In an interview with CNBC, Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice president of social responsibility, said the league has distributed around $ 160 million to date, including more than $ 90 million spent in 2020.

“I think we’ll go over $ 250 million,” Isaacson said, adding that the NFL was “genuinely committed” to tackling the social issues that continue to plague the country.

“We are here for the long term. We are not here only for a short time, and we are here to find solutions to complex problems,” she added.

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The NFL initially closed its donation deal in 2017, following players protesting social justice issues, including former quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has become the face of the movement. To raise awareness of the high-profile police shootings, NFL players knelt during the national anthem, which led to the formation of the Players Coalition.

The league created a plan to distribute around $ 89 million to fund social organizations, and this has helped ease tensions between players and team owners. Last year, he combined those funds with the 2020 pledge, and as a result, he positioned the NFL to surpass $ 250 million by 2027. The money is split between the NFL Foundation matching funds and includes league-approved social justice grants.

“There’s no way to hit $ 250 million and stop,” Isaacson said. She added that the NFL had donated around more than $ 40 million until last year, when social unrest escalated across the country following the murder of George Floyd. His death in May 2020 helped further expose the deep-rooted issues among minorities in underserved areas.

Isaacson said last year’s social unrest, which even warranted an apology from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, “made a difference” for the NFL. She added that the league has entered a “period of self-reflection.”

Isaacson said, “We made mistakes and we are rebuilding trust. It takes a long time, but our goal is to make an impact and show our genuine commitment.”

When asked what she saw of the NFL during the cooling off period, Isaacson replied, “I saw an organization that has worked hard over the past two years to make a difference and collaborate more closely. with the players. But also, we haven’t done enough – and we have a responsibility to do more. “

When discussing the NFL’s $ 250 million pledge, Isaacson was also asked if the funds pledged were sufficient, especially from a league that just signed a $ 100 billion media rights deal. dollars, the highest in professional sport.

“You can always say, ‘we can give more,'” said Isaacson. “But you have to look at the big picture and consider the commitment of the NFL. The league and clubs are using all of their assets, networks, digital assets and relationships to raise awareness and advocate for these issues. So I think we are. do our part. We have a big role to play in that regard, and we are fulfilling that role, “she added.” But it’s not the role of the NFL to play alone. “

The message “End Racism” can be seen on the helmet of No. 12 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Tom Brady as he warms up before the game against the Carolina Panthers at Raymond James Stadium on September 20, 2020 in Tampa, Florida. .

Mike Ehrmann | Getty Images

The future of NFL field messaging still in question

For the 2021 season, the NFL will return to the end zone and put aside social justice messages around NFL stadiums. Posts including “End Racism” will appear in regular season games, playoffs and Super Bowl LVI in February.

But it’s unclear whether the message will be featured in the same fashion games for the 2022 season. Isaacson didn’t say whether the on-field signage will continue for the duration of the 10-year engagement. However, she added that the NFL will integrate social messaging into future NFL events with Inspire Change.

There is also no clear indication whether the NFL will continue to allow posts to remain on team equipment beyond this season, or in licensing deals with video game companies. like Electronic arts.

On the front of economic progress, the league has pulled it out of the social justice umbrella, and the NFL wants to tackle those inequalities as another issue. Isaacson said the NFL is looking to fund organizations that “will try to close some of these wealth gaps that we know exist.”

The NFL gave $ 2.5 million to organizations last May, including Operation HOPE, which helps with financial literacy, credit and money management.

“These are American issues that the NFL should play a role in,” Isaacson said. “Work is necessary and essential to move our society forward. “

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