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NFL Players Are Considering an Offer From League Owners That Would Donate $89 Million to Social Justice Causes

But as they decide what to do about the deal, the Players Coalition is beginning to fracture

Philadelphia Eagles v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

A coalition of NFL players is weighing an offer from league owners that would see a proposed $89 million donated toward social justice causes over seven years, according to ESPN.

At roughly $12 million annually, the proposal is the largest financial commitment toward a charitable cause in league history — more than each of the flagship Breast Cancer Awareness, Salute to Service, and NFL Play 60 campaigns. Owners hope that the deal will end the practice of players protesting social injustice during the national anthem before games, though players did not agree to end the protests as a condition of the proposal.

The proposed money would be split among national causes and local causes. Nationally, a quarter of the money would go to the United Negro College Fund; a quarter to Dream Corps, a “social justice accelerator”; and half would stay with the Players Coalition, a group of NFL players that have become the organizing force for NFL players seeking social justice. The Players Coalition is filing as a nonprofit, according to the ESPN story. At the local level, owners and groups of players would each put up a minimum of $250,000, or $500,000 total.

The proposal is the result of months of work by activist-minded players hoping to use the momentum of the protests, started by former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, to enact tangible social change. In August, a group of four players, including coalition leaders Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin, sent commissioner Roger Goodell a memo requesting the league’s support for social justice causes.

“For us, support means: bear all or part of the weight of; hold up; give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act,” the memo stated. “We need support, collaboration and partnerships to achieve our goal of strengthening the community.”

The memo, written by Jenkins, Boldin, Eagles wide receiver Torrey Smith, and Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, outlined specific areas of focus for social justice, including, “police transparency/accountability, bail reform, criminalization of poverty, mass incarceration (mandatory minimum sentences, juvenile life parole) and Clean Slate Act, which also includes emphasis on diversion of funds towards community based programs, education and training.”

The Players Coalition, which grew to include dozens of players over the past few months, has increasingly been led by Jenkins and Boldin, and the shifting power dynamic within the coalition has frustrated some members. Most notably, 49ers safety Eric Reid, who knelt in 2016 alongside Kaepernick and penned an op-ed in The New York Times in September explaining his decision to kneel, announced on Wednesday morning that he was withdrawing from the coalition.

Dolphins safety Michael Thomas also withdrew from the coalition.

Reid told ESPN on the phone Tuesday night that he was frustrated that only a select group of players from the coalition were communicating with the league.

“When we agreed to be a part of the Players Coalition, we were under the impression that it would be our organization. We were under the impression that we would all have equal say in that organization,” Reid told ESPN. “But we’ve come to find out that it’s actually Malcolm and Anquan’s organization. Nobody else really has a stake in the organization. Malcolm actually wants us to — he calls it invest, I call it donate — to the company to pay salaries for his staff. But again, we would have no equity in the organization.”

Players will have a conference call on Wednesday night to discuss whether to accept the offer. If accepted, owners would vote in March on whether to finalize the deal.