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Players Coalition reminds us what it has been doing for its communities, and why

Frank Schwab
Yahoo Sports
Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins (left) is one of the 12 players governing the Players Coalition. (AP)

If we’re being truthful, the Players Coalition shouldn’t have to pen a piece in the Players’ Tribune telling everyone all the good work they’ve been doing, and why they’re doing it. Players have been telling us for two years, going back to the first time everyone noticed Colin Kaepernick sitting for the national anthem.

But, some people won’t listen. So the players will keep sharing their message. Perhaps, if you’re still somehow unaware of their message, you’ll read what they had to say in the Players’ Tribune on Wednesday.

The Players Coalition is a nonprofit organization made up of many NFL players, and governed by 12 of the more recognizable names the league has. While the entire issue has devolved into a circular debate about players demonstrating for the national anthem, their work for social justice causes is much more important than that. Hopefully everyone pays attention to what they have to say this time.

All the work players are doing for their communities

The most pointless statement made about players demonstrating is the one that claims they haven’t taken any action. It’s hard to imagine a group doing more in their communities, starting with Kaepernick donating $1 million of his own money.

In addition to the piece in the Players’ Tribune, the Players Coalition sent out an email detailing just some of the work its members are doing to bring about change in social injustice. Here are the highlights, from the Players Coalition:

BOSTON: Devin McCourty, Matthew Slater, Duron Harmon and Johnson Bademosi successfully lobbied in March to elevate the omnibus criminal justice reform bill including to Raise the Age of prosecuting youth from age 7 to 12 from entering the criminal justice system. The Governor signed the bill in April 2018.

NEW ORLEANS: Benjamin Watson and Demario Davis lobbied the Louisiana State Legislature endorsing HB 265 to return voting rights to people with past felony convictions, and currently on probation or parole. The bill was passed by the Senate on May 16.

PENNSYLVANIA: In Pennsylvania, Torrey Smith, Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins lobbied for the passage of HB 1419, the Clean Slate Act. The legislation automatically seals the records of people with misdemeanors who earn no further convictions after 10 years as well as those who have been arrested but faced no convictions. The Governor signed the bill on June 28.

***Additional on-going work took place in Florida, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York, Charlotte, Seattle, Oakland, Sacramento and Detroit. 

There are literally dozens of other examples of players fighting for things like educational and economic advancement, prosecutor accountability, bail reform and even hosting a social justice summit to further the conversation. This is a passage straight from the Players’ Tribune story:

“Other players have worked to raise awareness of these issues in different ways, although the media still remains hyper-focused on talking about “the anthem.” We have made trips to Capitol Hill, gone on ride-alongs with police officers and held meetings with grassroots organizations, community advocates, public defenders and progressive prosecutors. We have watched bail hearings during which people have been locked up not because they posed a public-safety threat, but because they were too poor to pay their cash bail. And as we learned, we also worked. We lobbied for criminal justice reform in New York, Pennsylvania and Boston, pushed for the restoration of voting rights in Florida and Louisiana, and for prosecutor accountability across the country. We hosted D.A.–candidate forums in multiple states, including California and Missouri. This is just a sampling of what we have done.”

Hopefully at some point the entire story evolves from the mindless debate about the anthem and what certain politicians tweet to at least recognizing that there are NFL players using their platform to bring about real change. Maybe this time around more people will listen.

“Deep patriotism”

There have been countless baseless arguments designed to pull your attention away from what the players are trying to accomplish. It’s a shame the players have to waste time talking over and over about how they’re not protesting the military, for example. Two words might have been the most enlightening in the entire Players’ Tribune post: “deep patriotism.” The players have repeatedly said they’re not against the United States, they just want an equal and fair United States for everyone.

“The Coalition’s actions are motivated by a deep patriotism, a desire to ensure that the realities of this country match its stated ideals, and that we live up to America’s foundational promise of opportunity and equality for all,” the piece said. 

This is a section from the Players’ Tribune story that is important, though the players have said it in different ways for two years and some of their critics choose to ignore it every time:

“We respect our police, who do much of their work on behalf of our most needy. Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin’s father served as a police  officer for 35 years. We are grateful for our military. Malcolm Jenkins has 17 family members who have served this nation. Fighting on behalf of those who have no voice does not mean that we disrespect anybody. We envision a better world for all.” 

Players keep trying to get their message across

The piece details many of the reasons the players continue to fight. They discuss police brutality, prison reform, and economic inequality for people of color. It’s nothing they haven’t discussed in many platforms before, but it’s a good refresher.

As the regular season starts, with another round of national anthem stories thanks to the NFL’s incredibly short-sighted policy, the players want the focus of that entire story to come back to what they’re actually fighting for — and what they’re working toward in their communities.

They’ve been talking about it for a long time. Thankfully they keep trying to educate people on their mission, hoping more people take the time to actually listen this time around.

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Frank Schwab is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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