Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

An Open Letter to NFL Owners, Coaches, Commissioners, Front Office People, Papa John's et Al

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

An Open Letter to NFL Owners, Coaches, Commissioners, Front Office People, Papa John's et Al

Article excerpt

Dear All:

While protesting in the NFL may be new to you, protesting in general is not. Black college students and college students in general have engaged in protests for decades. In fact, we have witnessed an uptick in the number of protests with regard to racial inequality and violence against people of color in the last 10 or so years. These student-led protests are similar to those witnessed in the 1960s and even the protest led by Olympians John Carlos, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman in 1968.

Protests and protesters don't just go away because organizational leadership wishes them away. In fact, many protests seem to be met with some resolve through communication with organizational leadership. Although not perfect, communication with the right folks at the table seems to always be key.

So, this is what I want to share: You don't have the right folks at the table. The NFL protest has some similarities to campus protests, but it is also different because you have yet to sit down with your players and with culturally competent leadership and support at the same table. Your organization has shown that you have very few or none at all. That, Papa John, is why it is taking so long to reach some resolution.

You have yet to sit with people who have thought deeply and thoughtfully about social justice, anti-racism, structural racism, inequality and violence against people of color. Your teams have been very clear that they want America to pay attention to, and do something about, social injustice and racism. Instead of spending time communicatng about those topics, you have elected to change the topic. You have redefined the protest as one about respectability and patriotism.

Racial tension and protests will not simply go away if you create policies that silence people - in this case your employees. As you know, at least I hope you know, folks have every right to protest injustice. In the current context of America, we have EVEN witnessed folks who have twisted the First Amendment's interpretation to protect their rights to espouse hatred toward different groups.

I recognize that there has been some discussion among players, owners and commissioners. I am asking: Who is leading those discussions given that it is clear that the NFL is not an expert in leading anti-racist, culturally competent discussions and thus has little knowledge about how to support this dialogue in any meaningful way?

I know that these discussions are difficult, but we all must engage in them if we truly want to live in a just and equitable world. …

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