By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)
The National Football League seems to have been on the wrong side of the fence when it comes to social justices issues in America the past couple years, especially in regards to the protests started by former players Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid that have continued by current players across the league up to the current day while leaving Kaepernick and Reid unfortunately out the league.
However, the NFL worked with its Players Coalition to form a partnership that looks to dedicate almost $90 million dollars to social inequality and programs across the country, as it was announced late in 2017.
Fast forward to this week and the Chicago Bears, who ensured that its win over Seattle on Monday Night wouldn’t be its only victory of this season.
The Monsters of the Midway took initiative before all else in the NFL by announcing its donation of $500 thousand dollars, the first $250 being put up by the players and subsequently matched by the organization, to a number of local social justice groups. In doing so the Bears become the first NFL team to organize its efforts under the league’s social justice initiative.
So necessary is initiative in dealing with the issues that plague so many of the communities the NFL represent. In their actions this week Bears from both the past and present are sending a correct message to the youth of Chicago.
The Bears efforts are highlighting social justice with a specified emphasis on education, community/police relations and criminal justice reform. Chase Daniel, Akiem Hicks, Trey Burton, Sam Acho and Mitchell Trubisky are joining four front office members, led by Chairman George H. McCaskey, in chairing these efforts.
“For me, social justice is a big issue, especially in the community that I grew up in,” Hicks told NFL.com.
“I feel like the best way to affect change is really working with the kids, the ones that can still be molded and conditioned into making proper choices. That’s why I felt like education would be a big aspect of what we plan on doing here.”
Education in Chicago is not the best, especially for African-American males. In Chicago Public Schools, African-American boys comprise 85 percent of special education placements and 46% of students who are expelled. Between 1995 and 2005, only 38% of school age black males in Chicago graduated from high school, according the Chicago Urban League.
That same reporting states that only 6 out of 100 African-American graduates go on to graduate from college in six years.
McCaskey talked about the importance of equality, and how he was educated throughout these initiatives the team was leading.
“I’ve taken Sam’s lead on a bunch of these adventures, I guess you would call them, visiting a couple prisons, going on a ride-a-long with the Chicago Police Department and looking at some of the initiatives that are happening in the community. It’s been a real education for me,” McCaskey told NFL.com.
Social equality is an uphill battle being taken on in Chicago, and it does not help with the fact that black unemployment is high and the prison population contains more blacks than it does any other race.
In 2014, African Americans constituted 2.3 million, or 34%, of the total 6.8 million correctional population. African Americans are incarcerated at more than 5 times the rate of whites.
Nationwide, African American children represent 32% of children who are arrested, 42% of children who are detained, and 52% of children whose cases are judicially waived to criminal court, according to the NAACP. Illinois’ population is 13% black but 64% of its inmates are African American. At comparable educational levels, black men earn 67% of what white men earn while 45% of African-American men between ages 20 and 24 are unemployed.
Another frustrating long-running storyline of life in Chicago involves the frayed relationship between many Chicago citizens and the city police. Former Bears running back Matt Forte has long taken a role in trying to better the Chicago community. In his retirement days Forte has particularly worked at improving citizen-police relations, No. 22 got some headlines this week by taking a ride-along with the Chicago Police Department.
“The narrative, even to the young kids is that, all police officers are bad, and that’s not the case, so we gotta find some common ground,” Forte said. “He didn’t even know or realize that I played for the Bears.”
It is good to see current and former Bears players giving back to the community and maintaining constant efforts to improve deep-seeded issues.
There are 31 other NFL teams, we should see 31 more announcements showing similar initiative to that of the Bears to benefit many more areas of our nation that need it.
Joshua M. Hicks is the lead columnist of WARR