While the NFL appears interested in tackling social justice reform alongside the players, Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung isn’t buying the talk from the league office, saying he’s “disappointed” with the lack of progress made during the meetings with owners.
Okung attended the recent meeting in New York with other NFL players, owners, union and league representatives, but the lack of action since then may prompt him and others to skip next week’s scheduled meeting.
“I am disappointed that further progress has not been reached on discussions with the league,” Okung said via ESPN. “NFL officials appear unmotivated and don’t share the same sense of urgency. Increasingly, the meetings appear unproductive at best and disingenuous at worst. Furthermore, the ongoing disparagement of Colin Kaepernick is a factor needing remedy for the players and public to feel heard and for real progress to be made.”
Okung was expecting more from the league.
“I thought there were concrete plans to help,” Okung said. “To my dismay, that wasn’t true at all. It’s only remained as just talking. There hasn’t been any action.
“It’s disappointing, because anytime the NFL says it cares about something, like breast cancer awareness, domestic violence, concussions, it comes out in force. So far we haven’t seen that.”
The NFL has sent a memo to the 32 teams rounding up its engagement initiatives with players, and looking foward what is next.
The update — that NFL senior vice president of player engagement Arthur McAfee sent to the league’s directors of player engagement on Wednesday — mentions plans to amplify players’ advocacy in communities and within the government structure at local, state and national levels.
After reviewing topics discussed with a players’ coalition at last week’s owners meetings — criminal justice reform, law enforcement, community engagement, and collaboration — and listing various programs in which the league and players are involved, the memo outlines plans for “media amplification and platform development” through programs launched in Weeks 13-15 of the schedule (Nov. 30-Dec. 18) and in January and February, through the Super Bowl.
The memo concluded by saying, “As you can see, we have addressed the specific issues of the Players Coalition and are enacting the plan in the spirit of our discussions. Please be encouraged to share this in the locker room and engage your players to see if there are any outstanding community issues.”
Okung acknowledged there have been attempts to promote individual players in the community, but he believes not enough has been done, and he said other players feel the same way.
They are encouraged by the talk, but so far discouraged with the results.
“We felt like the meeting went really well,” Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins, said afterward. “Obviously we’ve been invited up here to be able to speak with owners about some of the issues of injustice that we’ve seen in our communities, and how as players we can use our platforms. And we just talked about how the owners could come alongside us collectively, collaboratively, [to] work together to create change, some real change.”
“Conversations will continue, the dialogue will continue,” he added. “As players we’ll continue to work in our communities because we feel like that’s the most American thing to do, to use your platform and influence. With the stage that we have as NFL players, and as a league in general, we feel a real responsibility to our country, to our communities, so we’re working through ways to really have long-lasting, real change.”