At any other point in American sports history, a headline proclaiming that the commissioner of the NFL and an activist player wrote a joint letter on sentencing reform, might seem odd. Then again, it’s 2017, when odd became the new normal.
In an effort to help protesting players save face, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined with Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin, to write a letter urging passage of the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2017. A measure which would reduce minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenders.
The joint letter reads, “Over the last two seasons, one particular issue that has come to the forefront for our players and our teams is the issue of justice for all. Last season, as part of our My Cause My Cleats initiative, several players chose to highlight equality and justice on their cleats, while others chose causes related to supporting the difficult work of law enforcement. These expressions of player advocacy aptly capture the challenges we currently face as a nation – ensuring that every American has equal rights and equal protection under the law, while simultaneously ensuring that all law enforcement personnel have the proper resources, tools, and training and are treated with honor and respect.”
The timing of this announcement is no accident. On Tuesday, representatives from all 32 teams and the NFL Players Association, met to discuss anthem policy going forward. By announcing this joint letter on a matter of criminal justice reform on the same day of the meeting, the NFL does something to show their sensitivity to the players’ cause. Whatever comes out of the meeting on the anthem, it will likely restrict the players ability to protest the anthem on the field. So, the announcement of the joint letter also gives the protesting players the ability to not only save face, but also show that their protests produced a tangible result.
Does the NFL really support sentencing reform for nonviolent drug offenders? Please, the NFL has some of the most draconian punishments in all of sports for even minor marijuana-related charges. No, they don’t agree with or care about this issue, in all likelihood. What they do care about is getting the players to agree to stop the protests, and that’s all this letter is about.