Capacity crowds are about to see, hear and feel for the first time the NFL’s increased support for social justice and anti-racism campaigns.
As teams prepare to welcome back fans without COVID-19 limitations, the NFL plans to continue many of the initiatives put in place in empty or partially empty stadiums last season, while also adding new elements, as first reported by FrontOfficeSports.com and confirmed by The Post.
Social justice promotion will include on-field signage, player helmet decals and in-stadium public service announcements. For Week 1 of the preseason, end zones will be painted to include the messages “End Racism” and “Inspire Change.”
“Lift Every Voice” — unofficially known as “the black national anthem” — will be played in addition to “The Star-Spangled Banner” before kickoff of the first regular-season game (Cowboys at Buccaneers, Sept. 9) as well as at marquee events like the Pro Bowl, Super Bowl and the NFL Draft.
Victims of racial injustice will be given a platform as part of a “Say Their Stories” project, and “Inspire Change” will be a league-wide theme expressed on signage during Weeks 17 and 18, under the season-long “It Takes All of Us” campaign, according to the report. Other popular NFL theme weeks include “My Cause My Cleats” to promote player charities and “Crucial Catch” in partnership with the American Cancer Society.
This will be the first time many fans are in stadiums since the NFL committed $250 million over 10 years beginning in June 2020 to combat systemic racism. NFL revenue reportedly decreased by about $4 billion due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, so the need for fans to return is pressing.
Kneeling during the national anthem — a movement that began with Colin Kaepernick on Aug. 14, 2016 — has been a divisive issue with fans for nearly five years. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell offered his “support” before last season for those who kneel, which felt like a watershed moment even though no player ever had been disciplined for kneeling.
The NFL also is planning to honor 9/11 victims and first responders during Week 1 of the regular season, when most games will be played on Sept. 12, one day after the 20th anniversary of the tragedy. The Broncos will visit the Giants at MetLife Stadium that afternoon.
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