NFL players, owners marveling about cooperation and commitment to social causes
The NFL is prepared to put its full marketing weight behind a formal initiative starting Week 13
The level of discourse and cooperation between NFL owners and players coming out of last week's meeting in New York, and prior get togethers, has been staggering to many involved in the process. While the league and its players still have much to sort out regarding specifics of their work moving forward in how their time and energy will be channeled to civic outreach, there is broad optimism on both sides about the potential for real progress.
The NFL and NFLPA are currently planning to begin unveiling more projects and initiatives starting in Week 13, according to league and union sources, as they move closer to adding a full-blown Social Awareness Month to the annual league calendar. Given that nearly half the regular season has already passed, and that the NFL is already committed this month to "A Crucial Catch," it's cancer initiative, the roll-out this season will be significant but "not as comprehensive and wide-scale" as what we will see starting in 2018, according to one source. This season's Social Awareness focus will be on Weeks 13-15, sources said, and will continue into January as well while the playoffs are ongoing.
This will encompass the first three weeks of December, leading into Christmas, and the push will then resume in the New Year. It is expected to include PSAs and commercials highlighting the work already being done in the community and ways for fans to get involved to support players and owners moving forward in specific NFL cities. And the league is prepared to make further commitments for 2018, putting this initiative on par with "Salute to Service," and "A Crucial Catch."
Conversations with those involved in the process on both sides revealed unprecedented levels of direct dialogue between the sides in the aim of addressing specific societal ills, including criminal justice reform, racism and systematic injustice. The NFL formally supporting a piece of legislation aimed at criminal justice reform last week is just the first of many tangible outcomes the sides are working towards, league and union sources said.
The vigor for these efforts, which was expressed by owners and players publicly after Tuesday's meeting, has been re-affirmed to me in private conversations this week with both sides noting the overwhelmingly positive engagement between the sides and real optimism for future talks.The owners have expressed a substantial commitment to the players in these talks – of both time and financial resources – and this is a top priority for Roger Goodell.
"Whatever you might think their motive is, or if this is a business decision," said one NFLPA exec, "I can tell you this much - this is not a PR stunt. This is real. The owners have been willing to go in deep and have some uncomfortable conversations with the players, and to see things from the players' perspective. We've never seen anything like this before, and it seems very genuine.
"Anyone thinking the league was going to 'resolve' protests or the causes the players are advocating for had unrealistic expectations. No league is going to be able to do that. But they are truly engaged on these issues and they seem committed to working with us into the future. You have to give them credit for that. They deserve credit for that. They are willing to really support their players in the community in a way we have never seen before."
Some within the NFLPA contingent remain adamant that Kaepernick be a part of this interplay between owners and players moving forward, which remains to be seen, and both sides will be keenly observing whether the other follows through on their pledges to address these issues at a grassroots level like never before, but given how fractured some of these relationships between labor and management have been, the common ground they have found in recent weeks is being lauded within the ranks.
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