The NFL has experienced a fair bit of social turmoil over the course of the past two years which began in earnest with the protests of quarterback Colin Kaepernick, followed by other players, intended to draw attention to issues that they believe reflect social inequalities that can be amended by implementing changes.
The league has been caught in the crosshairs of both sides of the conversation, and many have argued that a reduction in viewership can even be tied to the protests that many players carried out during the recitation of the national anthem prior to games.
This has led to an increased level of awareness of and to social issues that are important to their players, many of whom put word, deed, and money toward affecting the change that they hope to see (among them Chris Long and Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles, set to play in the Super Bowl).
And it has culminated in the formation of the Let’s Listen Together initiative, which is a joint venture between owners and current and former players that aims to help elevate and raise awareness to issues that are close to the hearts of those who are involved in the game.
Chief among those involved is former wide receiver Anquan Boldin, who admitted that his recent retirement came in part due to his interest to pursue causes such as this. Both he and New England Patriots owner Jonathan Kraft released statements regarding the initiative.
The former writes, “the collaboration between the NFL and its players should be celebrated, as it’s the first professional league or entity that has taken the concerns of its players and put resources behind it. Our country has some real issues when it comes to social and racial equality that must be addressed. The only way these issues will get solved is to fight together”.
Kraft pointed to “numerous societal and community factors that pull you back into the world from which you are trying to escape”, when speaking of social inequalities that differently shape those of colors than those of white heritage.
“We need citizens to get involved. Understand what’s happening in your community. We need people to go out and vote”, Boldin urged in his letter. “Don’t simply vote for party affiliations or because a candidate is popular; make them earn your vote with their actions and their work”.
“Finally, listen to each other”, he concluded, the emphasis his own. “Everyone wants the right to be heard, but it’s just as important to listen to others and to put yourself in their shoes. We need true empathy for one another. To truly empathize with someone else, you need to understand their point of view, and you can’t do that if you don’t at least listen to where they are coming from”.
Many people in response to player protests have said something in the vein of putting your money where your mouth is. Many players have been doing that, and perhaps this is another step forward in helping the league as a whole address social issues.