The NFL and a coalition of players reached an agreement in principle late Wednesday night to partner on a plan to address social justice issues considered important to African-American communities, sources told ESPN. But a dispute over Colin Kaepernick’s treatment in the agreement has caused some NFL players to protest the arrangement.
The unprecedented agreement calls for the league to contribute $89 million over seven years to projects dealing with criminal justice reform, law enforcement/community relations and education, reports ESPN.
During a conference call Wednesday night, Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and former NFL receiver Anquan Boldin, who lead roughly 40 players who have negotiated with the league office about demonstrations during the national anthem, guided the group through the highlights of the package, which represents the NFL’s largest contribution to a social issue, surpassing that of Salute to Service or Breast Cancer Awareness/Crucial Catch.
But the partnership came a day after some players broke away from the Players Coalition because of their dissatisfaction with how Jenkins and Boldin have handled negotiations. San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said Wednesday he was splitting from the coalition, in part, because Jenkins kicked Kaepernick out of the group. Jenkins said that’s not true, that he has kept Kaepernick in the loop and that the former quarterback preferred the relationship to be informal.
Reid and Dolphins safety Michael Thomas announced on social media earlier in the day that they were breaking from the coalition. Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung also announced he was breaking from the coalition.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, believing that an agreement was at hand, was reportedly irate over the handful of players suddenly backing away. But during an afternoon call, Jenkins asked that the commissioner and the owners continue to stand with the players and allow them to do important work in the community.
The agreement does not include a mandate that players end protests during the national anthem in exchange for funds; there’s no implicit quid pro quo, notes ESPN. But the NFL hopes that this arrangement will end the players’ reasons for protesting.
The protests were sparked in 2016 by Kaepernick when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback refused to stand for the anthem to call attention to racial injustice and police brutality against unarmed African Americans.
Under the league’s proposal, the $89 million has been earmarked over a seven-year period for both national and local projects. On the national level, owners this year will allocate $5 million, with their commitment growing annually and maxing out at $12 million per year from 2021 through 2023.
Read details of the agreement below, courtesy of ESPN:
At the local level, owners would put up $250,000 annually and expect players to match that amount, totaling $500,000 for each team. Players and owners can exceed that amount if they choose, with no matching requirement. In addition, there would be other fundraising opportunities, including telethons and auctions of jerseys worn in games.
The agreement calls for national funds to be allocated accordingly: 25 percent to the United Negro College Fund; 25 percent to Dream Corps; and 50 percent to the Players Coalition, which has filed 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) paperwork for nonprofit status as a fiscally sponsored project. This week, the coalition hired The Hopewell Fund to oversee and advise the group, which hopes to work with grass-roots and nonprofit organizations.
Money at both the national and local level would provide grants for nonprofit organizations focused on law enforcement and community relations, criminal justice reform and education reform. A working group of five players, five owners (or owners’ representatives) and two NFL staff members would help identify future initiatives to pursue.
The $73 million in national funding has been vetted and approved, a league source said. However, the owners must vote on the matching-funds component on the local level and will do so at their March meetings.
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(AP Photo/Matt Rourke)