Just a few weeks ago the Broncos cancelled practice amid the protests over the shooting of Jacob Blake from Kenosha, Wisconsin.
It wasn’t just a hallow stand or publicity stunt. In place of that scheduled practice, the entire franchise met to talk about the future. A future where this platform of the NFL could be used for good.
“Our team has had a number of powerful, honest and at times uncomfortable conversations recently,” President & CEO Joe Ellis said. “Listening to the players—and watching what has taken place around the country—has helped us grow as an organization. I commend the players, John Elway, Vic Fangio and our staff for working together to take action and inspire change.”
In those weeks since that meeting, leadership on both the front office and player side has worked together to create a series of social justice initiatives meant to make a real impact on our communities.
The focus of this campaign will center around four areas: Education, Awareness & Funding, Diversity & Inclusion, and Activism.
Budgeted time in the football schedule for a weekly “Power Hour” meeting every Tuesday dedicated to player-led social justice causes; New initiatives in the areas of youth education (partnering with RISE) and mentorship (Empowerment Summit Digital Learning Series).
The Broncos will take a leadership in the community every Tuesday to discuss topics ranging from police brutality to criminal justice reform meeting with community leaders, government officials, policy makers, and first responders to begin a dialog and help improve the situation for all in each community.
There will be additional initiatives focused on education and mentorship for youth in the community as well.
Awareness & Funding
Created “We Stand For” campaign supporting player-selected causes and organizations making a difference in our communities; In addition to a $250,000 annual contribution from the Broncos toward player-led social justice work, GM John Elway has pledged to personally donate $100,000 this year to player-designated police reform priorities locally.
Funding is a critical asset to this campaign. The Broncos have opened up their digital campaigns to players to support non-profits of their choice in its social justice work. This “We Stand For” program was inspired by Jurrell Casey and his wife. The “We Stand For” stories and videos will be regularly featured on the teams social media platforms, website, TV and radio, and even live during the game on the scoreboard.
Diversity & Inclusion
Newly formed Broncos Diversity & Inclusion Committee will focus on diversity and inclusion both inside and outside the organization; Team has committed to adding a full-time, senior-level position dedicated to diversity and inclusion as well as an annual Career Combine designed for minority candidates.
The new Diversity & Inclusion Committee will host regular training for staff and players that will include Town Hall style gatherings with third-party experts.
The team will also host an annual “Career Combine” to give diverse college students opportunities within the Broncos organization. The team has also committed to adding a full-time, senior-level position focused on areas of diversity and inclusion.
The full use of Empower Field at Mile High was offered as a polling location and/or a Ballot Box location for the Nov. 3 General Election to the Office of the Secretary of State and the Denver Elections Division, which is exploring the best possible use for the stadium; Broncos to provide regular opportunities for players to engage with key local leaders and promote meaningful policy reform.
A critical piece of this initiative is activism. This piece involves getting the vote out and the team being active in encouraging all Coloradoans to vote. The team will also work together on policy reform.
Athletes are being heard now more than ever. But @jsimms1119 remembers the challenges his former teammates, @BMarshh and @DemaryiusT dealt with and how they helped paved the way.— Romi Bean (@Romi_Bean) September 7, 2020
See the rest tonight on @CBSDenver at 10:35pm pic.twitter.com/JfE1cYH7JA
This campaign all began from that cancelled practice. When asked about it on Wednesday afternoon, Justin Simmons talked about how this campaign came to fruition and where the teams focus was during the process.
Executive Director of Community Development Allie Engelken and Senior Manager of Community Development Liz Mannis “and a bunch of other amazing people around the building” helped develop ‘Inspire Change’ and put it into action, Simmons said.
“I feel like that kind of covered the broad range of everything that was on a lot of our guys hearts and minds,” he added. “It was really—I think the most important thing to see about this is it’s player-led and player-driven. There aren’t any ideas that have nothing to do without the players’ say so. Everything the you see in the Inspire Change and the categories and the bullet points below on how specific the details get within those bullet points, it’s all player-led. It’s something that we keep seeing week in and week out that is really important to a lot of guys. We’ll just have to make sure—like we said, to make sure we’re focusing on football but also to know like hey we are doing some stuff to make some changes happen. Maybe it’s just starting in Colorado, but the changes are going to be coming.”
As a fan, it is inspiring to see players and the front office working together for proactive reform and education in the community. The two sides in the NFL have often been at odds during the social justice arena. Even the Broncos have former players expressing their dissatisfaction with the organization’s previous handling of this issue.
Perhaps the addition of Head Coach Vic Fangio was a critical bridge between the players and front office that helped bring about this change in organizational focus. Whatever the reason, having a united front where team and players work together to improve communities is far better than how things have gone in previous seasons.
“I think it was very important,” Fangio said. “I think the best thing about it is it kind of happened organically in that the club wanted to do it and the club really initiated it along with the players getting it finalized. It wasn’t like the players went in and asked for it. It was both the club and the players wanting the same thing, and actually the club initiated it all, which to me makes it a very good thing.”
Yes, it is a very good thing and something for all of us fans to be proud of from the Denver Broncos.