The NFL will commit $250 million over 10 years to a fund to "combat systemic racism and support the battle against injustices faced by African Americans," according to NFL Network's Judy Batista. Additionally, the league is willing to work with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick on social justice initiatives, according to a person familiar with the NFL's social justice program.
"We wouldn't be where we are today without the work Colin and other players have led off," the person told Batista. "That is a key point here. We listened to our players. We needed to listen more, we needed to move faster. We heard them and launched a social justice platform because of what Colin was protesting about. The players have always been an essential piece of this effort and this campaign. It would be awesome to engage Colin on some of the work we are doing. He's doing real impactful work. Getting him in some way would be amazing for us. There's a lot of work to do to get to that point. We're certainly open and willing to do that."
The NFL has made a concerted effort to join the conversation as it relates to racial inequality following the killing of George Floyd late last month. In a statement issued last week, commissioner Roger Goodell acknowledged that the NFL should have listened to the league's players earlier with regard to social injustices. He also encouraged peaceful protests while condemning racism and "the systematic oppression of black people."
Many NFL teams, coaches, and players have issued statements on their various social media accounts condemning racism while also supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. Several members of the NFL community, including Houston head coach Bill O'Brien and Texans pass rusher J.J. Watt, attended the funeral of Floyd, who called Houston home for most of his life.
A dozen members of the Minnesota Vikings were also in attendance at Floyd's funeral. Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, which is where the protests began before spreading nationwide. Several NFL teams canceled their virtual meetings so that players would be able to either watch or attend Floyd's funeral.
Prior to the NFL's quarter-billion-dollar commitment, several NFL stars, including Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, recently created a video calling for the NFL to take action in the fight to end systemic racism.
"Enough is enough," Mahomes said earlier this month, according to the Kansas City Star's Sam McDowell. "We've got to do something about this. I'm blessed to have this platform. Why not use it? ... We (need) to come together as players and show that we believe black lives matter ... We need to be the role models to go out there and take that step."
As it relates to Kaepernick, several players have recently lobbied that he should have an opportunity to resume his NFL career in 2020. Among those players was Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who believes that the NFL's recent actions as it relates to social inequality could open the door for Kaepernick's return. Kaepernick, who was the first NFL player to kneel during the pregame playing of the national anthem, has not been on an NFL roster since 2017.
"I think [the NFL] referenced that they have made mistakes in terms of how they've handled peaceful protests and players voicing their opinions," Ryan said, via ESPN's Vaughn McClure. "I think they've recognized that they've made mistakes there. And as far as Colin being back in the league, I think he should have every opportunity to. He created awareness for a situation that, it's taken some time, but people are becoming more active in terms of their response to it.
"I think, from that standpoint, his protest is being heard at this point, but it's taken too long. But I think he should have every opportunity to have a job and to have a spot at this point."
This article was originally published on CBSSports.com on June 11, 2020.