Inspire Change: when sport meets social justice
Playing sports is something that people have always done. It is a fact that exercising brings many benefits, not only to our body but also to our mind. Sports can teach people discipline, respect, and patience. Football, basketball, baseball, or any other sport is not only the foundation of a league, but also a mean through which the team can build strong and lasting bonds within the community. Lately, social justice has become one of the most controversial issues, so why not combine it with sports?
The National Football League, also known as the NFL, is a professional American football league with 32 teams. It is one of the four major North American professional sports leagues and the highest professional level of American football in the world. The league, along with its partners and 32 teams, strives to educate family members, have transparent policies, and actively support communities.
They want to make a positive mark in American communities by working with players, clubs and owners to create positive change across the country and ensure equal opportunity for all.
Their project is called "Inspire Change" and focuses on four key areas. Let us explore them:
Criminal Justice Reform
The first area relates to criminal justice. The NFL believes that criminal justice reform is urgently needed and is therefore a strong advocate for this reform. It strongly believes in giving people a second chance and therefore funds organizations such as Alabama Appleseed, based in Montgomery. Their mission is to correct flawed state legislation that has imprisoned thousands of men for non-violent crimes and to help these men regain their freedom whenever possible. They engage in lawsuits and political campaigns to fight the bad laws that have increased the incarceration rate in this country.
Education is crucial according to the football team. Therefore, they advocate for equal access to education for low-income communities and help youth and adults who have been incarcerated through special programs and resources. Even today, the school system is very inconsistent: there are schools that provide great opportunities for kids, while other schools do not. The football team believes that we should close this gap so that young people can be more inspired to make a difference. To do this, they partner with organizations like Dream Corps to provide educational opportunities to communities that would normally be left behind. Dream Corps' mission is to close prison doors and open doors of opportunity.
The goal of this pillar is to build trust between the police and the community and reduce the incidence of police brutality. The NFL supports policies to end racial discrimination and the criminalization of poverty in policing and criminal justice. The League believes much remains to be done to rebuild trust between police and local communities. Inspire Change and its partner Metropolitan Family Services have begun a collaboration with the Chicago Police Department to bridge the gap between law enforcement and local communities. Metropolitan Family Services is training their districts thanks to grants from the NFL. They believe that leadership must come from the community and that police need to listen to community members and get to know their district from the community's perspective, not the law enforcement perspective.
Economic advancement is fundamental to quality education, and the NFL believes it should be available to everyone, regardless of an individual's race or gender. The league supports clubs whose goal is to close the gap between people who have the opportunity and people who do not. One such organization is the United Negro College Fund, which advocates for education as the key to economic advancement. Expanding opportunities for higher education allows for greater access to economic mobility. In 2020, they achieved a major goal: in fact, the Federal Government had restricted much of the funding for education for incarcerated individuals, but thanks to the efforts of the NFL and its partners working with the Senate, those restrictions have now been lifted. Inspire Change, in partnership with UNFC, is focused on enabling economic advancement through education, while also providing incarcerated individuals with increased educational opportunities.
The NFL is fully committed to these four pillars and puts a lot of energy and money into supporting communities, organizations and associations that partner with it to make a difference. It is remarkable that this league is not only focused on sports, but is also committed to social justice and helping people build a better future.
Written by Valeria Unich