Cincinnati Bengals' Mackensie Alexander (21) and William Jackson (22) celebrate after Pittsburgh Steelers turned the ball over on downs during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

NFL awards 13 new grants under Inspire Change initiative

The NFL expanded its social Justice initiative Inspire Change on Friday by awarding 13 new grants to non-profit organizations across the country.

The league and teams, who now have committed more than $95 million in the initiative, also will provide funding to support closing the digital divide.

“We’re focused on the gap in access to technology and technological hardware and software, and we’re seeing it really exacerbated during the pandemic,” says Anna Isaacson, the NFL’s senior vice-president of social responsibility. “It’s a much bigger issue with kids learning at home and schools having difficulty opening. These are digital divide issues, very local issues.

“The grants we are giving to the clubs, who will do their vetting and come up with who they want to donate to locally, whether it is for broadband or wifi or purchases for things like laptops for students.”

Also being addressed are the gaps the league has witnessed between African American communities and others groups going into technological education. One grant partner, Per Scholas, will be funding a software engineering course “to open more doors in terms of economic advancement and job placement,” Isaacson explains.

There are four pillars to the Inspire Change initiative: education; economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform. These efforts contribute to the 10-year, $250 million commitment by the NFL to social justice programs.

“Education is a basic human right, and we can no longer deprive students of the tools they need to succeed, including devices and the internet,” said Cardinals offensive lineman Kelvin Beachum, a Players Coalition task force member and part of the Player-Owner Social Justice Working Group. “I am proud of the work Players Coalition and the NFL has done to help close this ‘digital divide’ and help those children in underserved communities.

“There is a lot more work to do, and I hope together with support from the new federal government we will be able to continue what we’ve started and make sure no child’s education suffers because of lack of resources.”

Throughout this month, the NFL will have public service announcements and will tell stories about the issues facing American that led to the establishment of Inspire Change in 2018. For the duration of the playoffs, the league has added player helmets featuring Inspire Change stickers, which can accompany social justice messages or victims’ names already on those helmets; messaging on banners, goal post wraps and sideline stencils. In the end zones will be the phrases It Takes All of Us and Advance Social Justice.

A total of 33 organizations, including the 13 new programs, have received grants. The new 13 are:

Association for Enterprise Opportunity; Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Breakthrough Miami; Center for Policing Equity; Covenant House; Just City-Memphis; Ladies of Hope Ministry; MENTOR; Oregon Justice Resource Center; Per Scholas; Texas Appleseed; United Way Worldwide; and US Dream Academy.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Barry Wilner, The Associated Press

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