The NFL is planning extensive content around social injustice for Week 1 of the regular season, sources told ESPN.
Among options discussed by the league and players union, according to a source involved: Players reading personalized poems and delivering first-person vignettes based on experience with social injustice. These stories could be incorporated into game-day broadcasts.
This is in addition to recognizing victims of police brutality on the backs of helmets and playing or performing what’s known as the Black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” before the season-opening games, as ESPN senior NFL writer Jason Reid reported in July.
In a leaguewide memo issued in July, the NFL announced the messages “It Takes All of Us” and “End Racism” will be stenciled on all end zone borders for home openers.
The messages demonstrate “how football and the NFL brings people together to work as one and use our example and our actions to help conquer racism,” according to the memo obtained by Reid.
On game days, players have the option to wear the helmet decals honoring the victims of systemic racism, and the league will provide a list of names and short biographical information to help guide decision-making.
Coaches can honor victims by wearing patches on their hats if they choose.
The league and the union worked together on a Week 1 plan, including several team owners on the NFL’s social justice working committee.
The shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin, police prompted players across several sports — with the NBA playoffs as a springboard — sitting out games in protest.
Several NFL players and executives told ESPN this week that they mostly do not expect a Week 1 boycott, but the Arizona Cardinals did discuss the option of not playing as a form of protest in a locker room meeting this week. A source with the Cardinals said emotions are raw this week and players will continue discussions to see how everyone feels.
Many players consider kneeling during the national anthem as a minimum for pregame setups, and stronger displays could be an option.
“It comes down to accountability,” Engram said. “Law reform needs to be fixed. Say the word accountability — people need to pay for their actions. It’s frustrating and painful to see people committing these terrible things not getting punished.”