19th June 2019

Can the NFL inspire change in the local communities?

In the early part of this year, the US National Football League (NFL) launched a new initiative – Inspire Change. This is a solidarity project that is looking to give back to those in underprivileged situations through education, reshaping crime and the associated justice system through community projects.

The initiative was born out of an agreement between the NFL and the players coalition; a lot of the stars you see on TV each week came from backgrounds without privilege and the sport has given them a chance to break the cycle. Those players are the minority – the lucky ones if you will – but Inspire Change is a tool that can touch and improve the lives of many.

One of the biggest off the field issues football has seen over the last few years is the protests performed during the national anthems at games. It was during that time that the players coalition was born. Colin Kaepernick was the ‘poster boy’ for the protests, stating his issue was not with the anthem – which some tried to turn it into – but the fact ‘people of color’ are oppressed and subjected to police brutality.

This happened after the death of African Americans at the hands of police officers, hence why the protests began. It was a topic that split opinion, but Inspire Change has focused some early energy on the subject and, in particular, the lack of education on African-American history; there is a national school rollout planned that will start with close to 200 schools across five States.

Not all the focus is on breaking race barriers though, with grants being gifted to numerous initiatives on both local and national level. One of the earlier relationships that was established was with Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, which is an organisation that looks to connect children and teenagers with a suitable role model. 

Another link is with Operation Hope, which works with people to educate them in money matters as well as providing free and impartial advice on how they can go about building their own business to give them a truly sustainable future. A more recent partnership is with Dream Corps, who have their fingers in many pies – their ambitions range from providing access to high quality IT training to those that wouldn’t be given the opportunity under normal circumstances; to reducing the prison population by half. That’s just a small sample of the work taking place.

Inspire Change is much more than just a feeder of cash; the players, coaches, owners and even Hall of Famers have subscribed to the idea and they are investing time and effort to put smiles on people’s faces. The initiative has given them a platform to show their human side and they can use their celebrity status to promote the idea that dreams can come true. There are no signs of the changes stopping. 

It’s been widely acknowledged that whilst a strong start has been made, that is all it is – a strong start, which will continue during the current NFL preseason 2019. There are no illusions within Inspire Change that the initiative will fix the world, but it does demonstrate that the NFL is doing its bit, and represents a ‘long term commitment’ with donations approaching US$90 million forecast.

At the end of the day, the NFL is like any other sport; it unites fans of all ethnicities, gender, religions and more because of a common love – the passion for sport itself – and Inspire Change is aiming to build on that. No matter your background, your passions or your past mistakes, there are opportunities out there for you and with a little help, a little luck and a lot of hard work anything is possible – just ask any of the players in the NFL.

• This article was supplied to The Sports Integrity Initiative as an advertorial.

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