NFL’s Dedication to Veterans in Doubt


NFL’s Dedication to Veterans in Doubt

Is the NFL’s $89 million promise taken from vets?

Recent news that the NFL set aside millions of dollars to donate to social justice causes seemed, at first, wholly altruistic. This coordinated effort from the league and its players would represent a shift toward a more open relationship between the two sides and an airing of grievances.

A deeper look, however, reveals that the league might not be making its latest move out of the goodness of its heart – or even out of its pocket. Are team owners planning to shift funds reserved for veterans initiatives rather than commit new resources?

Breaking down the NFL’s donations

According to ESPN, the NFL is keen to move on from player protests. Charitable commitments are one possible way forward. The spirit of peaceful resistance by players across the league has spread since Colin Kaepernick, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, first abstained from standing during a pregame national anthem in 2016. Since then, NFL leadership has dealt with polarized fan opinion.

While many fans view the protests as valid and valuable, a loud group has complained that they’re eager for the gestures to stop. With leadership wanting to bring this contingent back into the fold, it’s no wonder why the league is especially eager to negotiate new programs that will make potential protesters happy.

Enter the proposed donation of $89 million, spread out over seven years. Some of the funds will go to national organizations and others to local groups with the goal of furthering of social justice causes. ESPN reported that this broad umbrella includes better relations between law enforcement agencies and their communities, criminal justice reform and educational programs.

The deal did not go without a hitch. Some players who started negotiations with the league have since left the Players Coalition, the group of current players negotiating the league’s social justice policy. If the new model goes through as planned, a committee of five team owners, five players and two league staff members will determine the direction of the program moving forward.

Eric Reid doubts the league’s motives

According to Slate, San Francisco 49ers defender Eric Reid, a former Players Coalition member, is unhappy with where the money for the donations would come from – and here’s where veterans issues come to the forefront. Allegedly, the proposed funds will shift from existing NFL programs, such as the vet-focused Salute to Service and the breast cancer awareness efforts that pop up every October. This decision by team owners to reallocate funds instead of opening their wallets is what drove Reid and his fellow players out of the Players Coalition, Reid explained.

Slate explained that Salute to Service has a mission to support military personnel and raise awareness about their sacrifices and struggles. Harsh critics of the player protests have said the gestures are disrespectful to the military, but if Reid’s accusations are truthful, the owners appear eager to appropriate funding meant for vet-focused programs to settle this PR nightmare.

The announcement of the $89 million deal has come very quickly. This, too, is problematic, Reid told Slate. Instead of spending months negotiating how the NFL will use the money, the Players Coalition had to agree right away or walk away. Reid speculated that the early announcement was tied to the fact that Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted a feeling of calm around the league before the final negotiation on his contract extension on December 13.

We support prosperous sports leagues that feel compelled to give to good causes. Social justice programs, cancer awareness and veteran initiatives are all worth supporting. But that’s what makes the NFL’s alleged donation shell game so worrying. Millions collected in the name of vets should go to vets, not to repairing the league’s sullied reputation.

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