RENTON Doug Baldwin’s not sure whether the NFL’s latest offer to aid social initiatives including ones he’s championing is a good plan or not.
The Seahawks’ top wide receiver and outspoken advocate for police reform is a member of the Players Coalition, recently founded by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and consisting of what Baldwin says is about a dozen core members. Baldwin says he isn’t sure yet what to make of the league’s plan to the coalition to have $89 million of NFL money go to players’ social causes, including his own push to change how law enforcement uses force in our country.
There is controversy surrounding the deal. Many see it as the NFL’s attempt to buy the players’ halting of their protests for social concerns during national anthems at games. There also turmoil within the Players Coalition itself. On Wednesday San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid said he left the coalition because Jenkins asked Reid if he and other players such as the Seahawks’ Michael Bennett would stop protesting during anthems now that the coalition had an agreement of funding from the league.
I asked Baldwin on Thursday what he thought of the NFL’s proposal.
“I am unable to comment on that at this moment, but we haven’t agreed to the terms,” Baldwin said of he and the Players’ Coalition.
“We’ve discussed not addressing it until we have all our ducks in a row.”
That echoed Reid telling The Associated Press’ Josh Dubow from 49ers headquarters Wednesday of the plan: “"It hasn't been brought to ownership yet. It's not real.”
Reid also told The AP: “I give kudos to the NFL for wanting to step up and help us with regard to systemic oppression. I question their intent behind it. I personally think they just want the protests to end because it's hurting their bottom line.”
Baldwin has been at the forefront of player efforts for social reform since last year. He called on states’ attorneys general to change their policies for and training of police using force in interactions with citizens. He’s met with police from around Washington state. He’s talked with Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson about the issue.
Last month, as part of the Players Coalition’s effort to get the league on board with their social initiatives and concerns, Baldwin wrote and got NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to co-sign a letter to Congress. Baldwin’s letter encouraged the Senate Judiciary Committee to endorse the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017.
Jenkins told reporters at Eagles headquarters in Philadelphia Thursday he will not, in the wake of the NFL pledging its $89 million to social causes, protest during the anthem Sunday evening before his team plays the Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. He has raised a fist during the anthem at previous games.
Bennett is expected to sit again during Sunday’s anthem, as he and fellow Seahawks defensive linemen have before all but two games this season. The two exceptions were consecutive games this month at Arizona and home against Atlanta, when Seattle was involved in “Salute to Service” games honoring the military.
ESPN reported the league's proposal does not have specific language requiring or asking the players to end all protests during the anthem.
But that’s clearly part of the NFL’s intent here.
ESPN said the league’s plan would send the $89 million over seven years for national and local projects. Team owners this year would contribute $5 million, with their commitment growing annually up to $12 million per year from 2021 through 2023. The plan would send 25 percent of the NFL’s contribution to the United Negro College Fund, 25 percent to Dream Corps and 50 percent to the Players Coalition, which has filed for nonprofit status to work with grassroots and other non-profit groups for social change.
Owners would also contribute $250,000 annually to local causes and expect players to match. The league would also plan other fundraising opportunities, such as auctions of jerseys worn in games.
I asked Bennett on Thursday what he thought of the NFL agreeing to give nearly $100 million over seven years to social causes.
“I think it’s a great gesture to wanting to even do something,” Bennett said, adding he hadn’t seen the entire proposal. “I think that most organizations are trying to find ways to give back, but I guess this is something that the players really want and the players really want to be a part of. And I think the ownership wants to, too. We’re just finding a way to do it.”
Reid told Slate.com on Thursday he objected to what Jenkins told him about where the money owners would be giving to the players’ social causes would be coming from: funds the owners already allocate to the league’s breast-cancer awareness month in October and “Salute to Service” month in November.
“So it would really be no skin off the owners’ backs,” Reid told Slate.com.
I asked Baldwin if the league’s pledge to fund social initiatives and police reform was, to him, progress. Or does he feel as Reid does, that the league is trying to write checks to buy the players’ halting of their protests during anthems?
Baldwin chuckled, then said: “I think that we are moving in a direction that we want to see.
“The long-lasting impact of it has yet to be seen. But hopefully we will have a long-lasting impact.”