Players Coalition Fractures As NFL Announces $89 Million Plan

A month ago, The Shadow League published a series of stories trumpeting the NFLs announcement of a proposed initiative to address issues pertinent to bringing about change in African American communities.  

Though the term police brutality was never mentioned in any of the communications between the league and a coalition of players who brought their concerns to the league and much of our editorializing on the matter was positive, the possibility that the NFLs newfound sense of civic responsibility regarding black issues was an attempt at taking the air out of the growing player protests was obvious.  

Historically, usurping the concerns of African Americans into a corporate or governmental dossier has rarely resulted in sustainable benefits for that demographic. 

When Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the 2016 preseason while employed as a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, very few people even noticed.  But all hell broke lose when he articulated his reasoning.  His initial protest eventually caused the President of the United States to weigh in, in a demonstrative and immature manner, marking Kap as a societal malcontent and setting him up for his current banishment. 

NFL Pledges $89 Million To Address Social Justice Issues | SI Wire | Sports Illustrated

The NFL reached an agreement on Wednesday night to commit $89 million to social justice issues that will help in African-American communities, according to ESPN. Subscribe to Follow the latest NFL news and highlights, with updates on your favorite team and players.

Though support for his cause was slow in coming, with some current and former NFL players breathing nothing but bile and disdain for him and his cause, 49ers safety Eric Reid, who was the first to support Kaepernick while taking a knee alongside him, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL player Anquan Boldin were the initial members of a Players Coalition that spearheaded efforts to bring about policy changes to extricate institutional racism from the American societal DNA. 

So, when the league gave lip service to an unprecedented plan to incorporate social injustice into their rainbow of philanthropic and charitable efforts, you couldnt help but feel a fleeting flicker of pride and hope.  But things are never that easy.  

NFL owners, many of whom with conservative sensibilities, are intimate with high-ranking officials in local, state and federal government, as well as in law enforcement, have repeatedly lied about to the media regarding their refusal to sign Kap, a former Pro Bowl quarterback who broke a single-game rushing record and performed admirably in a Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Baltimore Ravens. 

They said it was his skill set, then they tried to make us believe several derelicts were better, then they moaned about how he couldnt run their offense.  Week after week, month after month, as Brandon Weeden, Ryan Nassib, Brian Hoyer and Josh Johnson, who last suited up six years ago, were signed to contracts, the obvious became clear. Kap was being blackballed.  

As of two weeks ago, 42 quarterbacks have been signed.  At this point, saying Colin Kaepernick isnt being blackballed is just a lie.

Craig Hodges, Mahmoud Abdul Rauf and the great Muhammad Ali are but a few of the many athletes who have been ostracized and ostensibly banned for standing firm on their respective issues of societal inequities.  

For the observer who is familiar with the plights of those who came before, the leagues insistence that Kaps unemployment was football related was a gash out of which any remnant of credibility they had left was long gone, especially after bungling issues of domestic violence, CTE and properly addressing player protests.

Yesterday, Eric Reid said Philly safety Malcolm Jenkins kicked Kap out of the Players Coalition, which caused him to split from the group.  Jenkins has said this isnt true, that he has kept Kap in the loop, and Colin himself prefers the relationship to be informal.  Reid is joined by Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas in his secession.

Reid says Jenkins had not been communicating with Kap.

“Malcolm, which is also a concern that I raised with him, Malcolm kicked Colin out of the coalition following the meeting in New York at the beginning of the season,” Reid said. “There was a group message, I guess he was the administrator of the message, and he took Colin out.”

Jenkins released a statement telling his side.

“It’s false. I’ve talked with Colin numerous times about being a part of the Coalition. He thought it would be best to work and support us in an informal capacity.”

Russell Okung on Twitter

I agree with @E_Reid35’s assessment & also withdrew my involvement with the Players Coalition, effective earlier today.

But Reid is adamant Jenkins kicked Kap out.  He also believes Jenkins assured the league that protests would cease if they donated funds to certain initiatives.

“That was never discussed at any point. I feel like I’ve been misled,” Reid said. “I won’t accuse Malcolm of directly lying to me, because I don’t think he’s that type of guy. But I will say he’s misled us. And shoot, if that’s what lying is, then that’s what it is.”

Jenkins responded to ESPN: “They understood the entire scope of the plan. The last time we had conversations with [commissioner Roger] Goodell and Troy Vincent, Michael Thomas and Eric Reid were on that call. They understood the proposal. What we didn’t have was a conversation with players in the coalition based on some of the responses that we got from the league. We then talked about myself contacting Troy Vincent just to give them some updates on some of our feedback, which I did. That call did not have Mike or Eric on it. Everybody kind of agreed to that.”

Jenkins remains insistent upon the transparency of the entire affair, even saying that he double-checked with each player in the coalition before presenting their message to the league. Jenkins also said he spoke with Reid the night before.

“It wasn’t a conversation that led me to believe he would walk away from what we created,” Jenkins said of Reid. “We were kind of disagreeing on some points, but [as] we left the conversation, he said he’d have to make some decisions or let me know what his thoughts were. So I was waiting to get some feedback. But none of the conversations, for me at least, have been any that I’ve taken personal or felt like I didn’t want to work with the group, even if we disagreed.”

For his part, Reid has said that he doesnt harbor any hurt feelings.

“At that point, that was the last straw for me,” Reid said. “He had a conversation with the NFL, we agreed that multiple people would be in all conversations with the NFL, it wouldn’t just be him solely, so he didn’t stand by his word on that. At no point did we ever communicate that an agreement with the NFL would end the protests, so for him to come to that point with the league, it was the last straw for me.”

Later in the day, ESPN announced that the remaining members of the coalition and the NFL agreed in principle for the league to contribute $89 million over seven years to dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education.

The NFL proposing $100M to social justice causes doesn’t sit right | Jalen and Jacoby | ESPN

Jalen and Jacoby say the NFL is only offering money to try to end protests in the NFL.

There are no things for things tenets incorporated into the proposal, but the league hopes that players will no longer want to protest due to his unprecedented undertaking.  

But what does an NFL-led social injustice initiative look like if it doesnt mention police brutality or institutional racism, and if it does not include input from Colin Kaepernick, who brought all of this about in the first place? 

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