Commissioner Roger Goodell has maintained a steady dialogue since this summer with many civic-minded players including Malcolm Jenkins, Anquan Boldin and Michael Bennett. Goodell is working closely with them on ways the NFL can assist them in their community endeavors, an effort that began well before the president made remarks critical of NFL players last week.
The NFL had been getting closer to finalizing and announcing some of those plans, sources said, prior to Donald Trump's remarks calling protesting players "sons of b------," and considerable effort in the aftermath has gone to working with players, owners and teams on their response to that diatribe. But the league remains hopeful of getting this initiative, informally referred to as "From Protest to Progress," within the league office, off the ground shortly.
The league is seeking tangible ways to help players channel their concerns over social injustice, racism, police brutality and other societal ills into action at a grassroots level. No just offering financial support but working in tandem, physically, with players as they go out into their cities both in season and in the offseason. Bennett, Boldin and Jenkins all have strong convictions about the need for criminal justice reform, which is one area the league could possibly assist their cause. Those men met with politicians on Capitol Hill about such measures over the summer -- and Goodell has been very receptive to their ideas as they and other players continue regular outreach into their home communities as well as others (Native American reservations, Haiti, etc).
"This is about finding very specific ways in which the league can work directly with players to make a change," said one ownership source who is close with Goodell. "It's about doing specific things with specific players to support their philanthropy and service. The dialogue with players like Malcolm Jenkins is very real and it dates back months. It's about finding ways to move forward beyond just what you see some players express during the Anthem and into the cities they play in."
League sources said the measure has long been a priority for Goodell and, obviously, player-relations took on an even more imperative tone following the events of last week. While Goodell and owners hosted players in New York Tuesday night as part of efforts to move forward from the president's remarks, that was not specifically related to the "Protest to Progress," plans. The NFL remains hopeful of being able to announce more about its plans to work in tandem with players in the coming weeks.