Last week during an NFL Network roundtable, host Patrick Claybon asked me "What do you think NFL ownership, coaches and executives can do to help in the overall space of voting and voters' rights?"
Voter suppression has been one of the known elements of evil we know of when looking at racism in our country. Since the senseless and tragic murder of George Floyd in May, a lot of people are finally asking "What can I do?" Around the NFL -- among owners, players, coaches, front office employees and league employees -- the question persists: "What can WE do?"
I don't profess to have all of the answers on the topics surrounding racism. However, I have spent a large part of my life educating myself, listening and being proximate. It's important to note education doesn't simply come in the form of reading and listening. I've been intentional to make myself physically and emotionally proximate to places and things outside of my bubble. As my father told me growing up: "Two ears, two eyes and one mouth -- use them in the appropriate proportion."
My response to Patrick's question was an ask for our entire NFL community to consider an idea. Not a demand, not a finger wag, but simply an ask to recognize an opportunity. It's a call for the entire league to offer Time, Treasure and Talent to help impact voter suppression in our marginalized communities that we know have been consistently and historically disenfranchised. This can be one small step in the direction of answering the question "What can we do?"
We have three and a half months to mobilize and serve the communities that support us. Let's use this window to figure out the logistics of how we can help people that deserve the right to vote. Let us share our Time, Treasure and Talent.
TIME: Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Around the NFL, Tuesday is known to be a players' day off in most circumstances. During the season it's a day players use to serve their community, their own personal foundations and to be with family. It's also a day when most teams ask players to serve their community relations department or corporate sponsors.
Tuesday is a VERY busy day for coaches and personnel departments in-season. Coaches are game planning and personnel departments are trying to react to the previous week's injuries or plug other holes in their rosters. Tuesday is street free agent workout/signing day across the league, so part of the football operation will be busy.
However, Tuesday is not busy for everyone. What better way to serve our communities than to help at the polling stations on Election Day? There are a lot of ways to serve. Perhaps we ask players and other employees to be physically present at polling stations, particularly in marginalized communities.
The phrase "essential worker" has become a very popular phrase. Perhaps consider offering a paid day off to employees that are going to serve the community and are non-essential to Tuesday's game prep.
TREASURE: The word "Treasure" can be viewed a few different ways in this context. Some people view it monetarily and prefer to write a check. The concept of check writing doesn't need to be exclusive to owners. Groups of people can pool funding. Every year I watch players, coaches and front office executives pool money to tip cafeteria workers, equipment assistants, training assistants, etc. If this is how you'd prefer to share Treasure, make a plan.
Perhaps you can consider ways to help fund public transportation to polling stations. Maybe it's paying for meals for poll workers or people standing in line to vote. Be creative.
Some people consider Treasure their intellectual property. Use your knowledge, education or platform as part of your Treasure. Find ways to educate yourself on the TRUTH around state and local rules for voter registration and voting. Take that knowledge and spread the word via social media. Consider offering yourself for local PSAs with the county or city. Use your platform as part of your Treasure. Encourage citizens to make sure they are registered to vote and help them understand the rules around absentee voting and if it's available to them in their state.
Owners, if you view part of your Treasure to be the organizational resources you possess, consider using your indoor facility, your parking lots and perhaps your stadium as space for voting and voter registration. Maybe you can ask weekend stadium employees and parking workers to consider working at the polls and offer an additional paid day of work.
Another source of Treasure that every organization has is its business relationships and partnerships. I have often seen sponsorship partners offer to amplify messages and offer their employees in community projects. Ask your local business partners to collaborate to serve your local community leading up to the election.
TALENT: About a month ago, I was invited to virtually meet with the National Association of Secretaries of State -- a non-partisan organization that meets weekly. I had previously shared an idea with several secretaries of state, questioning our lack of use of large public facilities that have been publicly funded for voting. I couldn't understand why cities and college campuses were not opening these facilities for the use of the general public. Our need for voting facilities, particularly in marginalized and primarily socio-economically challenged communities is critical. After asking these and other questions privately, I was given the honor to speak with NASS. Since then, the responses and ideas have stretched further beyond this simple idea.
Something I learned on the call -- and equally important -- is the need for poll workers. A lack of poll workers and volunteers has always been an issue, particularly in certain communities. However, this year it is predicted to be an even larger problem.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis of government data from the Election Administration and Voting Survey (EAVS), 58 percent of U.S. poll workers in the 2018 general election were ages 61 and older, and 27 percent were over 71 years old. This information is relevant today during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic because we know elderly citizens are at a greater risk of severe illness. As we approach our November elections, it is clear we will need workers at the polls in EVERY state. More importantly, we will need workers serving in the most marginalized communities, not just in the suburbs or the "comfortable" areas. News coverage of last month's election in Georgia underscored, once again, the reality and truth of the stark contrast of a racial and socio-economic divide between citizens who ALL deserve the right to vote.
Another thought: Every NFL franchise is loaded with Talent. Ask employees to volunteer their Time and Talent by contributing their abilities in their area of expertise over the next three and a half months. Use your social media team, community relations team and any other department that might have a unique way to help. Consider incentives for engagement in a greater good through internal, healthy, team competition.
This is an opportunity for the entire NFL to be leaders. We have a unique ability to inspire others to join us and compete with us. Perhaps our actions can encourage others outside of the NFL to find ways to do more.
What can we do to fight the evil of racism? We can take action. We can lead and remember: "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it."
Scott Pioli is a longtime league executive and current NFL Media Group analyst. Pioli joined the Patriots in 2000 and served as VP of player personnel from 2002-2008. He was the GM of the Chiefs from 2009-2012 and most recently held the title of Falcons assistant GM.Follow Pioli on Twitter @scottpioli51.