Earlier this season, Seahawks players announced the creation of their Equality & Justice for All Action Fund in an effort to "create lasting change and build a more compassionate and inclusive society."
Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, one of the players behind the action fund's creation, said he and his teammates "wanted to do something actionable, we wanted to have an action item."
Less than three months later, with nearly $1 million in donations raised, the first action item is the awarding of grants to seven non-profit organizations. To select the first round of grant recipients, which range from $15,000 to $25,000, players worked with the Seattle Foundation to identify local organizations focused on education and leadership programs addressing equality and justice.
The first seven recipients of the Seahawks Players Equality & Justice for All Action Fund grants are Being Empowered Through Supportive Transitions (B.E.S.T), Not This Time, FEEST (Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team, YUIR and EPIC – American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), SafeFutures Youth Center, Team Child, and the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission. Information on all seven organizations can be found below.
Those grants will be funded by donations made by fans and supporters from all over the world, by Seahawks players and staff, by Paul G. Allen Philanthropies, by the Carroll Family Fund, by John and Traci Schneider, by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's Nadella Family Trust, and by Starbucks and the Starbucks Foundation.
The action fund is expected to give more grants this spring, so more donations are welcome and appreciated.
"I don't want it to be thought of that this is the end," Baldwin said. "This is not the end. There is still more work to be done and there will be more work done, but what I think I am most proud of is the collaboration that we have had between a number of different entities, individuals, organizations to come to support this fund. But not only this fund, the idea that we can have a huge impact on the communities that we live in, on our state, on the local level and then obviously, national as well, in ways that maybe nobody really fathomed before. But if we work together, which I think this fund has been a beautiful example of people working together to actually enact those changes, effectuate change, I think that is what I am most proud of.
"There's still a lot of work to be done, so we can't really rest. We can't really rest, can't really sit back and enjoy this part of it. These organizations have a lot of work that they've been doing, and we're supporting that, but then we're also trying to find ways to support in other ways. That's where the mindset is. There's not really much enjoying this yet, because there's still a lot of work to do."
Having Seahawks players use their platform, as well as their money, to help local organizations, is significant to the people putting in the work for these non-profits receiving grants, not just because of the money they're getting, but because of what it represents.
"We're a pretty small organization, there's only six of us, so to have someone who is so public recognize our work and recognize our value and see the importance of empowering young people and setting them up to be leaders, to have them recognize that is really special," said Lisa Chen, the executive director of FEEST. "It just shows what kind of community members they are, that they really see the value of community organizations, and for us, of youth leadership. They're not just athletes, they're part of the larger Seattle community. Through this fund and also through our experience with them, it just shows that it's not a one-way relationship. They're really part of lifting up our community as a whole. It's really cool."
Anne Lee, the executive director of Team Child, added, "It's really incredible. We so appreciate the leadership of players, and also just taking a clear stand on equality is important. Racial injustice is something we've always grappled with in our work. With players taking a stand and really elevating the issues, it really helps our work on the ground. And it's also a huge thing for our clients and other teenagers to see role models beyond just the sports piece of it."
Andre Taylor, who with his wife, Dove, founded Not This Time in 2016 with a goal of reducing police violence and healing communities after his brother, Che, was killed in a police shooting, appreciated athletes willing to take stands, even if they sometimes lead to backlash from those who disagree with them.
"There have been athletes throughout sports over time that have chosen to take stances, and to see the Seahawks on that same level of concern for the community—a lot of these athletes come from those communities—and to see that their support and participation in uplifting communities, putting their face to things and their money, it helps the movement," said Taylor. "It helps movements all around the country and around the world. It's admirable to see these athletes step up with all the pressure that's on them. It's just wonderful and I commend them a great deal."
That multiple grant recipients deal with issues involving law enforcement and the communities they serve is hardly a coincidence. The Seahawks have been working for more than a year on helping build a bridge between those groups.
"It feels like there's a great divide there, between the communities and law enforcement, and that obviously doesn't need to be the case, it shouldn't be the case," Baldwin said. "One of the main things we set out to do was to bridge that gap, to heal that wound. A number of these organizations do just that. They're on the ground floor working with community members and law enforcement to bridge that gap, to heal that wound. From the onset, that's something that has been very important to us, and that's why it's reflected in the organizations we have supported."
And as the son of a longtime police officer, Baldwin comes at this issue with a unique perspective.
"I'm very grateful for his leadership and his wealth of understanding," Taylor said. "He understands both sides of the spectrum, because as a black male, he knows the problems we face, but also with his father being a police officer for many, many years, he's able to have a better balance than most, and that has been extremely helpful."
Sue Rahr, the executive director of the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, had a long career in law enforcement that includes being the first female King County Sheriff. A grant, as well as the support of athletes as visible as Seahawks players, can go a long ways towards helping the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission make both police officers and the communities they serve safer.
"What we're trying to do is improve the safety of our officers and the safety of the public by focusing on the culture of policing, as well as utilizing science and research to better train officers," Rahr said. "One of the things that we're facing in our country is a split between law enforcement and communities of color, and Doug has a unique perspective of having a heart in both camps, so to speak. He's a great resource for us, because he can understand and identify with both groups."
Here is more information on the seven grant recipients:
Being Empowered Through Supportive Transitions (B.E.S.T.)
About: Promoting policy and system change, community engagement, and direct services that change lives, and create equitable communities.
Not This Time
About: Andre Taylor (Che's brother) and his wife Dove founded Not This Time shortly after Che's death, to engage with local community members, the families of those who have lost their loved ones to police shootings, and those who work inside the system, to demand more police accountability and safer communities.
Not This Time works with a large and diverse coalition of Native Tribes, Black Churches, Asian Pacific Islander groups, Latino Organizations, and people with disabilities to reform policing in Washington State. It has garnered the support of U.S. Senator Patty Murray, U.S. Congressman Adam Smith, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and many others working to create more just laws in Seattle, King County, and Washington State. Organizational allies include the Seattle Community Police Commission, the Black Law Enforcement Association of Washington, the King County Office of Law Enforcement Oversight, and the Washington Joint Task Force on the Deadly Use of Force in Community Policing.
FEEST (Food Empowerment Education and Sustainability Team)
About: FEEST empowers low income youth and youth of color in White Center and Delridge to become leaders for healthy food access, food justice and health equity. We organize 40-45 high school youth once a week to cook an improvised dinner using a table full of fresh vegetables from local markets. These community dinners serve as a pipeline to recruit and develop emerging food justice leaders for our year-long internship program. Interns develop and implement campaigns that seek to increase access to healthy foods for students and their families.
We also serve as a national model for youth engagement in addressing health disparities. We have trained leaders and replicated our program in New York, Oakland, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Orleans, and Detroit and developed a 100 page manual to share with trainers.
YUIR and EPIC – American Friends Service Committee (AFSC)
About: Youth Undoing institutional Racism (YUIR) is an anti-racist, multi-racial, intergenerational community organizing group. YUIR is youth focused and committed to providing a political education space to unpack race, racism and how it function in our lives. YUIR is a collaboration between People's Institute for Survival and Beyond and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC).
End the Prison Industrial Complex (EPIC) is a community group working to stop the construction of the proposed new youth jail in King County, Washington. EPIC operates with staff support from American Friends Service Committee and includes members of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism, the People's Institute Northwest and the community at-large.
SafeFutures Youth Center
About: SafeFutures Youth Center was founded in 1996 as a City of Seattle Human Services Department-operated program targeting at-risk Southeast Asian youth and families. SafeFutures became a non-profit organization in June 1999, received IRS 501c3 status, and expanded our services to better serve a broader community, including East African, African American, Native American/Alaskan Native, Latino, Pacific Islander, and other populations.
SafeFutures empowers and advocates for underserved young people from low-income communities and communities of color to maximize their potential. The Youth Center's prevention and intervention programs and services aim to reduce youths' involvement in the juvenile justice system, gangs, and school truancy and drop out. We are here to ensure that our young people emerge confident, resourceful, engaged community members with the tools and support to navigate their futures.
About: TeamChild upholds the rights of youth involved, or at risk of being involved, in the juvenile justice system to help them secure the education, healthcare, housing and other supports they need to achieve positive outcomes in their lives.
Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission
About: The Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission (WSCJTC) was created in 1974 to establish standards and provide training to criminal justice professionals, including peace officers, local corrections officer and to certify, and when necessary de-certify, peace officers. As per RCW 43.101.020 Washington State is one of only a few states that not only establishes training standards, but also provides Basic Training for Peace Officers and Corrections Officers. This unique model ensures that every local officer has consistent and high quality training guided by 14 Governor appointed Commissioners and our state legislature. Through economies of scale we are able to maintain a highly capable staff comprised of the best trainers in the state. Further, we are able to engage in partnerships with leading experts and researchers from across the nation, developing innovative strategies and evaluating state of the art training methodologies.
Linebacker Bobby Wagner, Safety Earl Thomas, Quarterback Russell Wilson, and Tight End Jimmy Graham have been voted to the 2018 Pro Bowl. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, defensive end Michael Bennett, safety Kam Chancellor and kick returner Tyler Lockett have been named as alternates.