The NFL has announced plans to honour victims of systemic racism by including their names on the back of players’ helmets.
The move is one of a number of social justice initiatives introduced by the organisation, which has been criticised in the past for shutting down protests against racism.
Earlier this month, it was announced the ‘Black national anthem’ Lift Every Voice and Sing would be featured in pre-game ceremonies, and the league office shared details of the other new initiatives in a memo released to clubs yesterday, July 27.
The memo read in part:
As we continue to amplify and elevate the NFL’s ongoing and long-term commitment to social justice, we will be incorporating several prominent elements on the field, into all broadcasts and across league and club platforms to begin the NFL season and beyond.
In developing these concepts, we have worked directly with players and received input from the NFLPA (NFL Players Association).
The NFL confirmed that players will have the option to wear helmet decals honouring victims of systemic racism, with each player displaying the name of one individual.
The footballers will be offered a list of names and biographical information about the victim to help them choose who they would like to honour, though they can also choose to honour someone who has been subject to racism but who is not on the list.
Images shared by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero show victims such as George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery recognised on the helmets.
Coaches will also be able to honour victims by wearing patches on their hats.
As well as including the names of victims on helmets, the organisation plans to display two messages of inclusion on all end zone borders for home openers.
The phrases ‘It Takes All of Us’ and ‘End Racism’ will be stencilled on opposite end zones to demonstrate ‘how football and the NFL brings people together to work as one and use our example and our actions to help conquer racism’, the memo explains.
Montages of the social justice work of NFL players and clubs will play on stadium video screens to accompany the song Lift Every Voice and Sing, and the NFL has created partnerships with the James Weldon Johnson Foundation and the NAACP to help educate fans about the significance of the Black national anthem.
The NFL has also chosen to honour those working on the frontlines during the coronavirus pandemic by putting thankful messages on each club’s seat covering between the 30-yard lines.
If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk