The NFL announced Tuesday the launch of the Let's Listen Together campaign, a new initiative that is part of a joint player and ownership commitment focused on social justice.
Let's Listen Together includes digital content and brand spots highlighting player-led work on social justice and racial equality. More information can be found at NFL.com/letslistentogether. The platform will also include social media support, as well as letters from individual players, including Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, as well as from owners, sharing their stories and reasons for prioritizing social justice.
A committee made up of five owners and five players will, according to the NFL's press release, "focus on supporting programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a priority on supporting improvements in education and economic development, community and police relations, and the criminal justice system."
"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 the 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."
While Baldwin is not part of the committee, he has been very active in social justice causes over the past two years, including co-writing with Goodell a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee supporting criminal justice reform. Baldwin's work will be featured on a future episode of the NFL Network's NFL Total Access (Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and his focus on racial bias and social and emotional intelligence training for police officers will be featured on the show this Thursday).
In addition to the league supporting players in their fight for social justice, the Seahawks have been tackling these issues as a team over the past two seasons in a variety of ways, including the recently-launched Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund, which last month announced its first seven grant recipients after raising nearly $1 million in donations.
In his letter on the Let's Listen Together website, Baldwin writes: "As a young boy, I enjoyed playing cops and robbers with my friends in the neighborhood. We would set up bases and have different roles on each team. We each had our own arsenal of toy weapons and gadgets at our disposal. We played until the street lights came on without a care in the world. I never thought much about those times as I got older. Until I heard about the story of Tamir Rice. Tamir was a 12-year-old boy shot and killed by police officers in 2014 after they received a police dispatch call of a black male that 'keeps pulling a gun out of his pants and pointing it at people.'
"Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I am not anti-police. I believe that there are many men and women who serve our communities as guardians to those in them. I admire these men and women and appreciate their courage. But that is not to say that the system is not without its problems. The case of Tamir Rice is very evident of that and resonates more so with me because I was once a young boy with a toy gun pointing it at my friends as we played together. I never imagined a scenario playing out like in the case of Tamir Rice. It was devastatingly sad and hit too close to home. I don't have kids yet, but I couldn't help but think about their future.
"This emotional and empathetic moment in my life has brought me to the realization that I have a voice and an opportunity to effectuate the change I want to see. As a human being sharing this earth with other human beings, I feel like I have an obligation to do my part and that is why I have decided to act."
Doug Baldwin visited Olympia to speak at a hearing of the Washington State Use of Deadly Force in Community Policing Joint Legislative Task Force and meet with Governor Jay Inslee.