Although sports and entertainment stands as the primary focus during Super Bowl week, the NFL also took a moment to help address the needs of communities in Phoenix.
On Feb. 7, the NFL Social Justice Town Hall took place at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. Panelists included, Dr. David Wall Rice – (Moderator) – Morehouse College, Dr. Chelsea Heyward of Players Coalition, Dr. Lance McCarthy of Foresight Foundation, and Isabele Redmond, an athlete at Arizona State University. Usama Young of NFL’s Player Development Department was also present.
Dr. Rice spoke with ADW following the event which allowed people from the community to share concerns and take the steps necessary for solutions.
There were so many great points that were made throughout this town hall meeting. What stood out for you?
What really stood out to me was the collective need for this community to be heard. I think that the Black community really needed to be heard. There is clearly an experience here within the Phoenix, Arizona area where Black folks feel grossly marginalized and it’s kind of a history of that. But one of the things that happened in the moment was, I think there was some degree of healing that occurred. This ability to be able to express the experiences of the marginalization that’s occurred and people being able to cosign it. I think that another important and beautiful thing that happened here was that people were willing to be vulnerable. This is the beginning of a dialogue. And so I think that it was an important and good first step. But the thing that we have to ensure is that we hold ourselves accountable. We’ll come back and provide the forum and figure out how it is that we use the bully pulpit that is the National Football League to lend support. We’ve done it in Atlanta. We know how to do it in Baltimore and D.C. Certainly, we can do it in Phoenix. It becomes a map for how it is that we can get some of the hard stuff right with other communities throughout the nation.
A few years back, the NFL allocated a certain amount of money for community initiatives. But it seems like some individuals in those communities aren’t really familiar with it or how to get connected with it. What are your thoughts on the disconnect that was expressed during the town hall?
One of the things that I’m encouraged by in terms of what the league is doing is that they’ve heard some of those things. They are trying to figure out how it is that there might be a menu that better directs organizations toward funding. And so it’s just a matter of figuring out how it is that we direct people to that funding. And when the funding doesn’t match, figuring out if there is something that the NFL can do to make those funds accessible for folks who are in a smaller pond.