Browns owner Jimmy Haslam will be part of an NFL initiative focused on social justice.
Haslam was selected to be a member of a joint player and ownership committee guiding Let’s Listen Together, a new league campaign aimed at supporting programs that improve education, economic development, community and police relations and the criminal justice system.
The committee, which held its first meeting in December, includes Haslam, Jets quarterback and former Brown Josh McCown, Arizona Cardinals owner and president Michael Bidwill, Atlanta Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan, and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Jets tackle Kelvin Beachum, former star receiver Anquan Boldin, Redskins cornerback Josh Norman and former star defensive back Aeneas Williams.
Let’s Listen Together, which formally launched Tuesday and includes a multi-layered rollout of digital content and brand spots highlighting the player-led work on social and racial equality, will also include social support, letters from players and owners outlining why social justice is a priority.
“Our players have been tremendous and deserve a lot of credit for engaging in very thoughtful and productive dialogue on how to create the most impactful initiatives on these very important issues,” Haslam said in a news release. “Eliminating barriers to opportunity through empathy, action, education, and inclusion is our goal and working alongside our players on this mission has been an honor and very powerful. We are all deeply committed to utilizing the unique platform that we have to create positive change for our country's future and particularly, our nation's youth.”
Dee and Jimmy Haslam met with the team throughout the 2017 season on numerous occassions, discussing social justice issues and how to best use their platforms in the community to effect change. The Haslams, cornerback Jason McCourty, linebacker Christian Kirksey and tight end Randall Telfer were part of a group of owners and players who met with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in September to discuss social justice.
The creation of the campaign comes as the Browns, and other clubs across the league, have emphasized the team’s ability to bring the community together regardless of race, religion, gender or socioeconomic background in recent months.
Browns players helped host a Neighborhood Equality and Unity Summit in October where they joined Cleveland Police and Cleveland Metropolitan School District students to talk about social injustice, community perceptions, police-neighborhood relationships and other topics that impact the community.
Earlier that month, several players shadowed police officers during an afternoon ride-along, using the shift as an opportunity to better understand one another and broach difficult topics.
Before the Browns’ season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they unveiled a video highlighting values such as unity, respect and diversity.
In addition to Let’s Listen Together, the NFL Foundation is also launching a new grant today for active and retired players who develop social justice programming or partner with local non-profit organizations committed to this work. A similar grant will be open for club foundations later this month. The league’s government affairs division will provide support to the Players Coalition, players and clubs who are interested in criminal justice reform at the local, state and/or national level.
“We are pleased to have developed a new initiative that focuses on creating meaningful solutions to improve our communities,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release. “In developing this plan, we have taken the lead from our players and are honored to join them in this work. Their work has deepened our understanding of the unique platform we have to help advance progress in a profound and unifying way.”