As NFL players wear decals on their helmets to remember victims of systemic racism, more than 225 NFL coaches will also be joining with patches of their own.
CBSSports.com has learned NFL coaches and officials will wear similar patches on their hats, being able to choose among one of the four league-approved social-justice phrases or names of victims of systemic racism. Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy will wear George Floyd's name on his hat all season, while head coach Adam Gase's entire New York Jets coaching staff has decided collectively to wear "Black Lives Matter" in the 2020 season.
"We reached out to players as we were coming back into the season to talk about what are issues that we want to address," Traci Otey Blunt, the NFL's SVP of corporate communications, told me Friday. "Obviously social justice and Inspire Change [the NFL's social justice brand] were a part of that. When we were talking to players, coaches and officials also wanted to be a part of being able to honor and recognize the victims of systemic racism and draw attention to what's happening in society right now."
The league's Inspire Change umbrella program covers education, criminal justice reform, community-police relations and economic advancement. The league surveyed its players and coaches on where to focus its efforts this season in the wake of the George Floyd killing at the hands of a former Minneapolis police officer.
"What is so important with everything that has happened in these last several months is that we wanted to start the season to recognize that this is something that players have talked about for a long time," says Otey Blunt, a Black woman. "This started when Colin Kaepernick kneeled. Inspire Change was born out of that. So the players wanted to have a platform to talk about what is important to them. Seventy percent of our players are African American, so this hits near and dear. This could be any of us."
From that survey, four phrases emerged that will be used throughout the season: "Stop Hate," "It Takes All Of Us," "End Racism" and "Black Lives Matter."
New York Giants head coach Joe Judge will wear "It Takes All Of Us," while Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski will wear "Stop Hate." The patches will be located on the side of the hats for coaches and officials.
Bieniemy will be joined by Washington Football Team VP of player development Doug Williams in wearing Floyd's name. Washington head coach Ron Rivera will honor John Lewis with his hat patch. Players, coaches and officials ultimately chose about 100 different names of victims of systemic racism and/or police brutality.
"We were looking at a big list. This is what's so scary about all this," Otey Blunt says. "There was a list of about 1,500 names that we could have presented. And we presented a little over 200."
More than 1,500 players will participate in the program this season. Some players and coaches will change their decal/patches with different phrases or names throughout the season.