Fooch’s update: The NFL issued a formal memo on the proposal.
Earlier this week, the NFL leaked that they were planning on donating $89 million over seven years to various social causes championed by players. Word of this proposal leaked out shortly after Eric Reid and Michael Thomas announced they were leaving the Players’ Coalition due to a disagreement with Malcolm Jenkins and Anquan Boldin.
Reid and Thomas (and later Russell Okung) stated that they did not feel Jenkins and Boldin were representing the beliefs of all the players. Reid said he wanted to pursue a separate dialogue and was working on forming a non-profit to continue that fight. He said the two issues were that Jenkins and others had not kneeled and some of those players were not sufficiently representing the players continuing to protest. Additionally, he expressed concerns about the decision to remove Colin Kaepernick from a group chat on the process.
It was still not fully clear what Reid wanted out of this, but on Thursday, he spoke with Slate twice to explain in more detail the problems with the current situation. Based on his explanation of things, the NFL is mucking this up and attempting to co-opt the social movement with effectively a bribe, and Jenkins is not pushing back sufficiently on the NFL’s attempts to do so.
First, Reid said that he was specifically asked if he would end his protest if the NFL made a donation. The NFL has said stopping the protest was not a condition of the donation, and there was no quid pro quo. The NFL may have eventually decided that would be the case, but there appears to have been a contradiction at one point.
Second, Reid is concerned with how half the money will be spent. ESPN reported that the proposal involved 25 percent of the funds going to the United Negro College Fund, 25 percent to Dream Corps and 50 percent to the Players Coalition. A working group would be created to determine how to allocate that last 50 percent. The group would involve five players, five owners (or owners’ representatives), and two NFL staff members. That makes it seven NFL people and five players. Barring a need for unanimity in voting on matters, the NFL would control the decision-making process in where the money eventually goes.
Third, Reid and reportedly other players, according to Mike Freeman, are concerned much of what the league will do is create public service announcements. PSAs can hold some value, but Reid described it as a charade that would cost the NFL little if anything and would serve more as easy PR for the league than providing real impact on the underlying issues Reid and others are attempting to address.
The fourth issue is arguably the most damning. Reid said Jenkins suggested some of the money donated to the causes would simply be shuffled out of funds allocated for the league’s breast cancer awareness work and Salute to Service.
“In the discussion that we had, Malcolm conveyed to us—based on discussions that he had with the NFL—that the money would come from funds that are already allocated to breast cancer awareness and Salute to Service,” Reid said in an interview with Slate. “So it would really be no skin off the owners’ backs: They would just move the money from those programs to this one.”
If that’s the case, that makes the NFL’s offer all the more paltry. $89 million is certainly not nothing, but when it involves some measure of re-allocating already donated funds, that’s pretty pathetic. If you divide $89 million by 32 teams, and then divide that by the seven years it would take to outlay all the funding, you’d come down to $397,321 per owner per year. It is more than nothing, but for a league that is as financially lucrative as it is, they can do more. And to think they are doing this while potentially simply shuffling existing money shows a league that does not actually care about these causes.
All of this added together suggests this is more about making peace than finding justice. That’s not entirely shocking given how the NFL operates, but it is yet another instance of the NFL trying to win a PR battle rather than actually address underlying issues.