Retired professional football player D'Qwell Jackson on Monday said the NFL should follow the NBA’s lead when it comes to supporting its players who speak out on social justice issues.
“If the NFL would get behind these guys — like the NBA, their commissioner, he actually gives those guys a platform to speak out throughout the course of a year, throughout the course of a season ... it relieves some of that pressure,” Jackson said to Hill.TV co-hosts Krystal Ball and Buck Sexton on “Rising.”
Jackson is referring to NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s initiative NBA Voices, which is designed to publicly highlight social issues and the work players do in their communities.
Following the unveiling of the NFL’s new controversial anthem policy in May, Silver said athletes should not just “stick to sports” and encouraged athletes to use their status to help create change.
The NBA has long embraced social activism among its players, dating back to when Hall of Famer Bill Russell spoke out about civil rights during the 1960s.
Jackson, a former Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts player, added that the NFL needs to foster social activism and treat it like any other awareness campaign.
“You have breast cancer awareness month, you have military month, you have even a month where guys are able to express themselves through their cleats of promoting any charity, so why not get behind a social injustice month?” Jackson said.
In May, the NFL owners unanimously approved a new national anthem policy, requiring players to either to stand for the playing of the national anthem or remain in the locker room until the performance is over.
After facing severe backlash over the policy, the league put a freeze on the it while "working on a resolution."
But Jackson said the policy is already having an adverse effect on some professional football players.
“The guys that are able to speak out on this issue are the guys who have saved their money, who are probably veterans in the league, because if you’re a borderline a guy, you have your family, your wife and kids to support, you don’t want to rough with those fellas — you don’t want to piss off your boss,” Jackson told Hill.TV.
— Tess Bonn