NFL adds 6 grassroots groups to Inspire Change Initiative

January 7, 2020

The NFL is awarding new grants to six social justice organizations as part of its " Inspire Change " initiative that emphasizes education and economic development, community and police relations, and criminal justice reform.

The new grants, along with two grant renewals, were recently approved by the joint NFL players-owners working group and total nearly $3 million.

Since its launch a year ago, the league's social justice platform has awarded more than $25 million in grants for grassroots organizations, including more than 500 grants to current and former players for nonprofits across the country.

It's part of a more than $90 million commitment the league has made to reducing barriers to social justice.

In addition to grant renewals for Dream Corps and the United Negro College Fund, which received grants during the initiative's launch last year, the six new organizations brings to 18 the number of social justice groups to receive the NFL grants.

The new ones are:

— Alabama Appleseed, which will use the funding for a campaign that emphasizes treatment alternatives to incarceration.

— City Year, which will use the funding to augment its student support program, which unites 3,000 young adults of all backgrounds to serve in schools as student success coaches.

— Community Justice Exchange, which will use the funding for its National Bail Fund Network project.

— The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which will use the funding in part to support its Nonviolence365 campaign, which focuses on decreasing the prison population, reducing prison sentences, altering drug sentencing policy and juvenile justice reform.

— Metropolitan Family Services, which will use the funding for its program that provides incentives for participants to make nonviolent choices.

— And The National Urban League, which will use the funding to support its Urban Apprenticeship Jobs Program, Urban Youth Empowerment Program and Re-Entry Jobs Program.

The league also produced new TV spots as part of its Inspire Change initiative.

The first one premiered on Jan. 4 featuring Saints linebacker Demario Davis and his efforts to help restore voting rights in Louisiana. The second spot will air on Jan. 11 and features 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead and the impact he's made on educational equality with Leataata Floyd Elementary School in his hometown of Sacramento, California.

The final spot focuses on Players Coalition co-founder Anquan Boldin and his inspiration to launch social justice work across the country. The signature spot of the Inspire Change platform will debut during the conference championship games Jan. 19 and run through the Super Bowl.

The league launched the initiative last year in connection with its 32 teams and the Players Coalition, a group of players that works for social justice. Inspire Change was launched after the league and the players established a working relationship in October 2017 following player demonstrations for social justice during the national anthem.

“It's really a 365 campaign for us. It doesn't ever end," said Anna Isaacson, the NFL's senior vice president of social responsibility. “We just place special emphasis at this time of year where we can shine an even greater spotlight on the work that's being done. But the work of the clubs and the players is really happening all year long."

Isaacson said that during the playoffs, “we have a spotlight on us and so what better way to use that spotlight than to shine it on the causes that are meaningful to the players and to the clubs?”

Boldin, who also sits on the NFL Owners-Players Social Justice Working Committee, lauded the league and teams for being receptive to working with players and noted how the grants have helped reform the criminal justice systems in Florida, Louisiana and Georgia, among other places.

“Everybody is working together," Boldin said, “to make this a better nation."