The NFL announced Wednesday it has renewed 21 national grants with a $6.5 million commitment as part of its "Inspire Change" social justice initiative ahead of the 2022 season.
Along with the grants, the NFL's player-owner social justice working group also allocated $15,000 to each of the league's 32 teams ($480,000 total) to address the "digital divide" in their local communities.
In all, the Inspire Change initiative has now committed over $244 million of the $250 million it pledged when the idea was launched in 2017.
"The NFL is proud to renew its commitment to these 21 organizations as they continue to drive positive change in communities nationwide," NFL senior vice president of social responsibility Anna Isaacson said. "The greater societal needs that these organizations serve represent the core tenets behind Inspire Change, and their meaningful work and measurable impact continue to inspire the NFL in its ongoing quest for social justice."
The NFL's statement highlighted areas targeted by the renewed grants:
- Advocacy to end mass incarceration
- Offering tuition-free educational resources
- Wraparound services for youth battling homelessness
- Various mentorship programs and re-entry services
- Fighting to end cash bail and pre-trial detention
- Addressing "three-strikes" laws
- Financial empowerment services
They surround the four pillars of the Inspire Change initiative: education, economic advancement, police-community relations and criminal justice reform.
In January, Isaacson confirmed to Boardroom's Randall Williams the NFL plans to continue the efforts, even though it's already closing in on the initial $250 million commitment midway through the 10-year plan.
"I can't see us hitting $250 million and then stopping," Isaacson said. "I think $250 million is a point in time and we'll surpass it and keep going because it's about making change, and as we see that change come, it is going to encourage and incentivize us to want more change."
Despite the success of the Inspire Change initiative, the league continues to face questions about its racial progress.
Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flories filed a lawsuit against the NFL and its teams in February alleging racial discrimination in the league's hiring and firing practices. The suit was joined by fellow coaches Steve Wilks and Ray Horton in April with their own allegations.
In February, commissioner Roger Goodell called Flores' allegations "very disturbing" and committed to a review of the league's practices for potential improvements.
"You don't take anything off the table so, if it requires an overhaul, you do it," Goodell told reporters. "If it requires changes in other areas, you do it. I think, obviously, we haven't been successful to date so we've got to look at every one of those alternatives, and we're going to have other people look at it independently, as well as with us, and bring those ideas."
The NFL will enter the 2022 season with just five minority head coaches (15.6 percent) despite players from ethnic minorities making up 75 percent of the league's rosters in 2021.