The Bears on Tuesday announced that players have committed more than $250,000 to local social justice initiatives, which the organization will match, for a total donation of more than $500,000. Donation recipients with ties to social justice and an emphasis on education, community/police relations and criminal justice reform are in the final stages of being selected and will be announced at a later date.
In March, the NFL announced that each club would match player contributions up to $250,000 annually, for the purposes of establishing a fund to support community improvement, social justice and law enforcement relationships. Bears players are the first team to collectively commit to donating $250,000 to social justice initiatives. Donations also have the potential to be matched by Bears Care and the NFL Foundation Social Justice Grant.
A social justice committee was formed featuring Bears players Sam Acho, Trey Burton, Chase Daniel, Akiem Hicks, Mitchell Trubisky and four front office staff members, including Chairman George H. McCaskey. These players are representative of the whole roster; additional players have also been involved and provided donations. The committee has met with and been in continued discussion with the University of Chicago Crime Lab, which has provided research and resources about areas that need the most assistance.
"For me, social justice is a big issue, especially in the community that I grew up in," Hicks said. "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."
"It's not only important that our money goes to these organizations," Trubisky said, "but that we get out there ourselves and put in the man hours to go meet these kids, and development relationships between them, the police force and their community. If you give [kids] positive experiences, then later down the road they'll have a better life, and that's what this is all about."
The player-ownership social justice conversation began initially as a discussion between Acho and McCaskey in September 2017 and evolved into a joint learning experience that took them to the 007th District in Englewood, the Kewanee Life Skills Re-Entry Center, National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., Louisiana State Penitentiary, meetings with the Chicago Police Superintendent and more.
"It's been a good education," McCaskey said. "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."