The NFL raised some eyebrows earlier this week by announcing an $89 million social justice initiative, that would take place whether or not players stopped kneeling, to bring awareness to racial injustices during the national anthem. The proposed initiative was reportedly negotiated with The Player’s Coalition, a group headed by retired wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung was one of several prominent players to leave The Player’s Coalition, and he was rather candid in his assessment of the NFL’s pledge.
“This goes beyond dollars and cents,” Okung told Dan Woike of the Los Angeles Times. “It goes beyond just allocating funds from other initiatives that are just as important. It’s going to take a real commitment of us, leveraging the platform of the players and empowering us to really talk about these issues, police engagement and brutality. That’s just something, I feel, that’s been made into a farce.”
According to San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid—who also recently split from The Player’s Coalition—the “allocating” Okung referenced would be a shifting of funds that were previously earmarked by the NFL for charitable campaigns such as breast cancer awareness and military service initiatives to the new $89 million initiative.
Okung’s comments come as various other revelations about the league’s $89 million pledge have surfaced.
Jenkins is a Papa John’s franchisee, despite the company’s CEO blaming decreasing profits on the type of NFL protests Jenkins and other players were involved in.
Friday, Diana Moskovitz of Deadspin also provided some clarity about exactly where the proposed $89 million would go when she wrote the following:
“Per ESPN, the agreement is to give 25 percent of the national fund—which is separate from the money contributed by owners and by players—to the United Negro College Fund, 25 percent to Dream Corps, and the other 50 percent to the Players Coalition. But the Players Coalition isn’t a real charity, and the report goes on to add that it has “filed 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) paperwork for nonprofit status as a fiscally sponsored project.” That project will then be overseen and advised by the Hopewell Fund.”
A charity is not the same thing as a fiscally sponsored project. Furthermore, none of the funds proposed seem to directly address the issue of extrajudicial killings of unarmed people of color. That was the cause Colin Kaepernick began kneeling to bring awareness to.
“I think you’ve got to keep in mind who started this whole thing, who sort of put himself on the line,” Okung said of Kaepernick. “There’s definitely some respect there. I believe this is the same league who has effectively blackballed him. So when you’re dealing with a certain group of people, this entity as a league — you try to keep in mind, is this a reparation, or just $89 million?”
You can read the full interview with Russell Okung at the Los Angeles Times website.