The NFL continued its social justice initiative with another round of grants for local community organizations.
The league announced on June 1 that two local groups, Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO) and U.S. Dream Academy, will EACH receive a portion of $6.5 million in renewal grants as part of the league’s Inspire Change program.
AEO will receive $200,000 to work with community-based lenders and business groups to assist small businesses in their pursuit of access to capital through the organization’s “Resili” digital program – one which helps up to 3,000 small businesses, particularly Black and Latino entrepreneurs.
The organization, which will hold a 30th-anniversary symposium and gala July 20 at the National African American Smithsonian Museum in Northwest, received its first NFL grant last year of $250,000 when it first launched its digital program to assist more than 1,000 Black entrepreneurs, particularly microbusinesses with five employees or less.
“Business owners of color are faced with an economic tsunami that is manifesting through a series of threats to their recovery. Because these businesses are so small, people tend to overlook them but these businesses are strong job creators,” said Connie Evans, president and CEO of AEO.
“Business ownership creates wealth. It creates opportunities for Blacks in their communities because Black-owned businesses tend to hire Black employees. That’s what we need more of to fuel the growth of these businesses so we can create jobs and opportunities for all,” Evans said.
U.S. Dream Academy, based in Silver Spring, received a previous grant of $150,000 to conduct in-school, after school and virtual programs for children whose parents are incarcerated.
This year’s $100,000 grant will continue that work and launch an eight-week virtual support group in July to work with high school students whose parents remain currently incarcerated or represent returning citizens.
Locally, the academy partners to offer services at Turner Elementary School in Southeast and to provide mentors from Howard and Georgetown universities, said C. Diane Wallace Booker, chief strategy officer and executive vice president with the academy.
Besides the District, the academy helps students in grades three through 12. It exists in six other cities that include Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, Orlando and San Bernardino, California.
“An awful lot of people don’t really understand, or have a bias or negative view of children with incarcerated parents,” Booker said. “We’re working to help shift that narrative so that people see the youth as the promising and bright young people they are but who need that additional support during this time.”
Since 2018, the NFL has provided $244 million to hundreds of national and local nonprofit organizations.
The 21 grant recipients awarded Wednesday received previous approval for their work based on four pillars: education, economic development, police-community relations and criminal justice reform.
In terms of community initiatives, the league hosted a roundtable at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas last month with community leaders, educators and merchants based on the following question: “What more can we do for our new community?”
This week, the NFL held its annual spring meeting to include a two-day Coach and Front Office Accelerator program in Atlanta to improve hiring practices among coaches and executives. All 32 teams participated with representatives including two from the Washington Commanders: running backs coach Randy Jordan and Eric Stokes, senior director of player personnel.
“The NFL is committed to diversity and inclusion and this program is the latest in a series of steps designed to improve our hiring practices and create opportunities for advancement,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement May 19. “The program helps ensure that clubs receive exposure to high-performing, up-and-coming NFL talent and candidates get a chance to learn the business on a working level from team owners and executives.”