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Volume 24 No. 219
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NFL Memo To Teams Addresses Social Causes Deal; Some Players Unhappy With Agreement

Following the NFL's deal with players last week to work on social causes, league COO Tod Leiweke in a memo to all teams Friday wrote the league has worked for almost a year to create an initiative “that focuses on creating meaningful solutions to improve our communities," according to Sam Farmer of the L.A. TIMES. The program "allows players and teams to apply for grants directed to local community programs and nonprofit organizations." Leiweke in the memo wrote, "The initiative addresses the broad heading of ‘social justice.' ... Social justice may mean different things to different people and organizations." Farmer noted the initial funding of the program will come from a $3M grant "approved by the NFL Foundation" last week. That will "allow for players to apply for grants." Leiweke said that the league in the coming weeks will be "establishing a working committee comprising team owners and players who will be responsible for further developing the framework of the initiative" (L.A. TIMES, 12/2). In DC, Mark Maske noted the social activism agreement is "subject to final approval by the owners." Leiweke said, "This new program will supplement, and not replace, our other key social responsibility efforts. ... Several clubs, often in conjunction with their players, have established separate funds to promote these efforts in their communities, and we look forward to discussing additional ways of developing local programs involving clubs and their players." It is "unclear how owners will react if the agreement does not have a significant impact on the protests." Sources said that some owners would "support taking action in the offseason, if the protests last all season, to change the anthem policy for next season and have players remain in the teams’ locker rooms until after the anthem is played" (WASHINGTON POST, 12/3).

Okung was one of four players who decided to leave the Players Coalition last week
MORE THAN MONEY: Chargers OT Russell Okung said, "It’s not necessarily something you can throw dollars at to make go away, right? I don’t think it’s something that you can even decide to say, ‘Well, we just won’t even give players time to demonstrate or protest,’ because it still doesn’t go away. We are in a sport where we have people of color, men of color that have prominent roles in this league as players. And I think now is a pivotal time to be able to leverage that correctly" (ESPN.com, 12/1). THE UNDEFEATED's Jason Reid noted last week, four players left the Players Coalition and have "engaged in a public war of words." Seahawks DE Michael Bennett "hasn't determined where he stands." Bennett said, "It does disappoint me a little bit. When something is really important, you want to be seen as a whole, you want to be seen as being together. You don’t want to show anything being broken apart." Bennett added, "Sometimes when you’re in a situation with a group, you’re going to bump heads. ...Things happen. But those things should be kept behind closed doors." Asked if he would continue protesting, Bennett said, "I'm going to talk to Kaep. I want to see what he thinks" (THEUNDEFEATED.com, 12/3).

ON THE SAME PAGE? In Pittsburgh, Sean Gentille wrote the "main issue" is that the deal "feels like a de facto payoff to stop anthem protests, and it was negotiated with a too-small portion of players that doesn’t -- and can’t -- represent the larger group." Asked if that was how the negotiation process was framed, Steelers LB Arthur Moats said, "That’s kind of how we took it. That’s definitely how it came off." Additionally, the issue of the Players Coalition's size "remains." Steelers DE Cameron Heyward said, "(For) it to only be one percent (of players) that's voting, it's just not enough for me. The Players Coalition was not a group formed by the whole NFL. ... I honestly don't think it represents everybody." Steelers C Maurkice Pouncey called the infighting "pointless." Pouncey: "If (the Players Coalition) is in a disagreement and they're falling apart now, it kind of makes it senseless" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 12/2).

MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE?  CBSSPORTS.com's Cody Benjamin noted Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins in a letter to the media "detailed the roots of his discussions with the NFL, saying that it's 'insulting' to hear others call him a 'sellout.'" 49ers S Eric Reid is "among several notable players who have openly criticized Jenkins' actions" on behalf of the Players' Coalition. But Jenkins said that he has "only ever been motivated by the very reasons he protested." Jenkins in the letter wrote, "I wholeheartedly support and respect those who want to continue to protest. My hope and my focus now will be on getting the media coverage and attention on the tragedies we need to fix. ... What the NFL has done is a good first step -- it's not going to solve the massive problems we have in our cities and states across this country, but it's a start." He added it was "never about the money or having our voices bought." To hear people "call me or anyone else a sell-out is insulting" (CBSSPORTS.com, 12/3). Jenkins said that he does "not like being portrayed as having acted on his own" in working the deal with the NFL. Jenkins said, "What is a disservice is that my name gets thrown around in talks about the coalition like I'm the only players involved. I think it's a discredit to all the guys who have put in time and effort and work into this." Jenkins added, "We did, I think, an awesome job of reaching out to guys all around the league that are still engaged and still onboard, that have been (a part of) this process from the start" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 12/2). In Boston, Ben Volin wrote so NFL owners would make a donation that "barely makes a dent in their checkbook, the players would have to match it, and the NFL would have total control over how the money is donated." Volin: "That wouldn’t get me to stop protesting racial injustice, either" (BOSTON GLOBE, 12/3).