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Goodell: Social justice campaign between NFL, players ‘just the beginning’

LM Otero | AP
LM Otero | AP
NLF Commissioner Roger Goodell listens to a question during a news conference after the NFL owners winter meeting in Irving, Texas, Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017.

The NFL and its players moved forward Tuesday with their plans to work together on community activism, announcing the members of a joint committee of owners and players and launching a promotional campaign to accompany the two sides’ social justice initiatives.

“This is just the beginning,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a conference call with reporters. “We’re just getting started with this effort.”

The committee held its first meeting last month at the NFL’s offices in New York, the league said. Its members include owners Arthur Blank of the Atlanta Falcons, Stephen Ross of the Miami Dolphins, Jimmy Haslam of the Cleveland Browns, Shahid Khan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Michael Bidwill of the Arizona Cardinals.

Players on the committee include the Washington Redskins’ Josh Norman, the New York Jets’ Kelvin Beachum and Josh McCown and two retired players, Anquan Boldin and Aeneas Williams.

“A number of owners who have been in the league even longer than me said they have never seen owners and players work together so closely on an issue,” Blank said.

The league and the Players Coalition, a group led by Boldin and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, agreed in November to a plan by the which the league and teams would provide about $89 million over seven years to fund community activism efforts.

The agreement came after owners and players met in October, then owners held their regularly scheduled fall meeting in New York and decided not to enact a rule requiring players to stand for the national anthem before games. The NFL was under intense pressure from President Donald Trump and some fans to halt players’ protests during the anthem.

But Goodell and many owners said that while they wanted players to stand for the anthem, they were not prepared to require it. Instead, they said they would focus on talks with the players about working together on social justice initiatives. Owners said at the time there was no agreement, expressed or implied, that such an accord would lead all players to stand for the anthem. Some players continued the protests after the accord was reached, while several players withdrew from the Players Coalition and said the group no longer spoke for them.

Eagles defensive end Chris Long said Tuesday it is clear that players can devote time and attention to such off-field endeavors without having it detract from their play.

“I think it’s a great example of how players can manage their time so well. … Players are really good at doing this,” Long said. “They’re really good at time management and you can still do your job effectively. For years and years, players have been involved in stuff off the field, whether that’s toy drives at Christmas, turkey drives at Thanksgiving. Nobody seemed to ask any questions about those things. That’s part of giving back to your community. Well, this is a way of giving back to your community.”

The NFL said Tuesday that it was launching a campaign called “Let’s Listen Together.”

The league said in a written statement that the campaign “includes a multilayered rollout including digital content and brand spots highlighting the player-led work on social and racial equality. The platform will also include social media support, as well as individual letters from players and owners sharing their stories and personal reasons for making social justice a priority.”

Said Boldin: “We’re dedicated to making a difference in our communities.”

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