The NFL today announced 13 new grants to nonprofit organizations across the country and additional funding to support closing the "digital divide" as part of its social justice initiative, Inspire Change. The league and its clubs have provided more than $95 million to date in support of programs focused on education, economic advancement, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform, encouraging unity and respect in our communities. These efforts contribute to the ten-year $250 million commitment by the NFL to social justice.
Inspire Change launched during the 2018 season, showcasing the collaborative efforts of players, clubs, and the league to create positive change in communities across the country. Unanimously approved by the Player-Owner Social Justice Working Group, the 13 new grants total nearly $4.3 million and come in addition to the 20 organizations awarded funding over the last three years.
"As a league, we are proud to provide financial support for such impactful programs that inspire change, but we know our work as a league and at the team level in the cities where we play is not done and we must continue to support the march against social injustice," said Atlanta Falcons Owner and Chairman and member of the Player-Owner Social Justice Working Group, Arthur Blank. "This past year opened the eyes of so many to the inequality suffered by many of our fellow brothers and sisters, neighbors and associates. We will continue to stand with our players as we address underlying issues and bring people together to achieve meaningful, positive change."
The Working Group also made a commitment to address the "digital divide," a longstanding barrier to internet and technology access in the U.S., particularly in communities of color. This year these disparities have been exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic where students and families were forced to learn and work from home. As such, the Working Group voted to dedicate an additional $1 million earmarked specifically for NFL clubs to work with local nonprofits to help alleviate the "digital divide" in areas that need the most support.
"Education is a basic human right, and we can no longer deprive students of the tools they need to succeed, including devices and the Internet," said Kelvin Beachum, Players Coalition task force member, Player-Owner Social Justice Working Group member, and Arizona Cardinals offensive lineman. "I am proud of the work Players Coalition and the NFL has done to help close this 'digital divide' and help those children in underserved communities. There is a lot more work to do, and I hope together with support from the new federal government we will be able to continue what we've started and make sure no child's education suffers because of lack of resources."
In addition, the NFL Foundation has now provided more than 1,200 matching grants to current players and Legends for nonprofits of their choice to help reduce barriers to opportunity. These grants have supported more than 500 nonprofit organizations in areas ranging from education to racial equality.
New Inspire Change Grant Recipients
The following organizations are the 13 new social justice grantees:
- Association for Enterprise Opportunity will utilize its funding to support the "RESILI" program designed to provide strategy and developmental assistance to local Black owned businesses and target the wealth gap that exists between Black and white American families.
- Boys & Girls Clubs of America will use the funding to support its Youth for Change Town Hall and the creation of the TLC Youth Advocacy process, an effort to further educate 5,000 teens and build advocacy capacity via service-learning projects. The organization will also train 32 staff members on leading Wellness Mentoring Circles to address topics related to culture, history and customs in the context of community.
- Breakthrough Miami will focus its grant to advance the Changemaker Leadership Track supporting current Breakthrough Scholars and recent alumni to build capacities to challenge the digital divide, gain early work experience, college advising, financial literacy and leadership development.
- Center for Policing Equity: plans to expand COMPSTAT usage– a software that tracks incidents, identifies trends and holds departments accountable by measuring crime. The organization combines data collected from COMPSTAT with census information (geographic markers, racial disparities, etc.) to more accurately measure justice.
- Covenant House will strengthen its workforce development and education services across the U.S., providing support specifically designed to meet the needs of youth and young families facing homelessness.
- Just City-Memphis will use funding to support the Memphis Community Bail Fund, the Clean Slate Fund, and Court Watch programs. Memphis Bail Fund has freed more than 500 people from pretrial detention, while the Clean Slate Fund helps people navigate the complicated process of expungement. Court Watch trains and places volunteers in courts to observe – targeting the disproportionate impact the system has on people of color.
- Ladies of Hope Ministries will use the grant to support its Faces of Women Imprisoned Speakers Bureau, Parole and Probation Accountability Project, and EPIC Ambassadors policy advocacy project. Through its #RewritingHerStory series, the LOHM changes the narrative about women and girls who are directly affected by the criminal justice system and transforms policies and practices that limit opportunities and exacerbate a cycle of poverty, trauma, harm, and incarceration. National ambassadors work directly with policymakers to address probation restrictions, and police and community relations.
- MENTOR will increase its resources and tools on virtual mentoring made available to mentoring programs nationwide. The organization will continue to recruit and train people, schools, and employers to bolster youth mentoring, advocate, organize, and advise government to create policies that integrate mentoring, and provide research and training on mentoring best practices through their local affiliates and the overall intersection of social, racial, and economic equity and supportive relationships.
- Oregon Justice Resource Center will use its funding to support the Women's Justice Project – the first and only program in Oregon that addresses the needs of women in the criminal justice system. The program provides direct legal services, public awareness campaigns, and advocacy coordination.
- Per Scholas will enroll 220 new individuals into their Software Engineering courses – a 15-week, full-time training program that will include technical instruction and professional development in efforts to advance economic equity.
- Texas Appleseed will use its funding to support the organization's work in three areas that that disproportionately affect Black and Latinx Texans from low-income backgrounds: driver's license suspensions, criminal record expungement, and debt collection.
- United Way Worldwide will put the funding toward the Young Men United initiative, a national platform which aims to support 25,000 young men of color in the United States to and through post-secondary and into entry level career positions. United Way Worldwide and local United Ways will provide mentorships, internships, college and career readiness supports, and need-based funding to support each student, over the course of six years, beginning in junior year of high school and continuing through college graduation.
- US Dream Academy will use its funding to aid in the continuation of the Children of Incarcerated Parents initiative, providing mentorship, leadership training, educational support and career readiness for a unique population of primarily Black and Latinx young people in communities harmed by racial bias and mass incarceration.
Raising Awareness for Social Justice
To further raise awareness for social justice, the league will continue its series of Inspire Change television spots, highlighting the efforts of grant partners, clubs, and players. A piece centered on criminal justice reform featuring grant partner the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, the Los Angeles Rams, and So-Fi Stadium will launch on January 9 and run through the postseason. Earlier spots in the series featured Big Brothers and Big Sisters of America (education), Vera Institute of Justice and Houston Texans safety Michael Thomas (police and community relations), as well as Operation HOPE and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Fred Warner (economic advancement). Two other features to air through the remainder of the season will highlight Beachum's work with the Players Coalition to end the "digital divide" and Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill's efforts to achieve racial justice with the Equal Justice Initiative.
Ahead of Kickoff the NFL launched Say Their Stories alongside its helmet decal program honoring victims of systemic racism or social justice heroes. The season-long series aimed to raise awareness of social injustice and provided a platform for NFL players to recognize those names. Two upcoming installments during the postseason will highlight the importance of the phrase "Black Lives Matter" and the legacy of Emmett Till. The first is narrated by Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard and will premier on January 8 on NFL Network's Total Access. The second will be narrated by Seattle Seahawks wide receiver DK Metcalf and is slated to premiere on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 18 also on NFL Network.
For the duration of the Playoffs, the league has added on-field representation of Inspire Change. On gameday, player helmets will feature Inspire Change stickers. Inspire Change messaging will also be found on banners, goal post wraps and sideline stencils. To carry the message of a collaborative effort in creating long-lasting change, stenciled on the end zones will be the words It Takes All of Us and Advance Social Justice.
The emphasis on social justice will continue through the Super Bowl with a community event supporting the Tampa Bay region and additional promotion across all NFL platforms. For more information about the social justice efforts of the NFL, clubs, and players visit www.nfl.com/inspirechange.