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Armour: NFL, Players Coalition Agreement on Social Justice Efforts a Good Start

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Baltimore Ravens players, including former player Ray Lewis, second from right, kneel down during the playing of the national anthem before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Photo: Matt Dunham / AP

It’s a start.

The proposed agreement between the NFL and the Players Coalition to formalize and fund social justice reform efforts is not perfect, by any means. The announcement Thursday left as many questions as it answered – how, specifically, it will be funded being the most obvious one – and the absence of Eric Reid, the first player to join Colin Kaepernick in the protests during the national anthem, is a concern.

But the divide in our country is not only disheartening, it’s become dangerous. There’s a segment of our population that can’t – or won’t – see that people of color continue to be discriminated against and marginalized. Meanwhile, the FBI said earlier this month that hate crimes rose for the second consecutive year in 2016, with more than half of the victims targeted because of their race or ethnicity.

Think what you will of the protests by Kaepernick and the other players, but they’ve started a conversation this country has to have. It’s going to take more than talk to bridge the divide, though, which is where the fund comes in.

It focuses on three areas that play a significant role in racial inequality: Criminal justice reform legislation; police and community relations; and education and economic advancement.

Many of the 40-plus players in the Coalition already are doing work in these areas, lobbying local and federal legislators, organizing listening sessions with police and residents and supporting scholarship programs. But the sad reality is those efforts, done in the players’ free time, don’t get the same kind of attention as kneeling or raising a fist during the anthem.

By Nancy Armour

This article was republished with permission from the original author and 2015 Ronald Reagan Media Award recipient, Nancy Armour, and the original publisher, USA Today. Follow columnist Nancy Armour on Twitter @nrarmour.

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