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Head Coach Ron Rivera Discusses Plan To Fight Social Injustice


A large part of head coach Ron Rivera's videoconference Wednesday centered around the death of George Floyd, the ensuing nationwide protests and how the Redskins will take action to fight social injustice.

Here's what Rivera said about these topics:

1. The team is instituting multiple initiatives to support racial equality.

Rivera has always believed in the mantra that actions speak louder than words, so when he held a company-wide meeting Monday and talked to the local media Wednesday, he made sure to have a plan in place.

Internally, the Redskins have created a town hall program led by six members of the organization, including Senior Vice President of Player Development Doug Williams and Senior Director of Player Development Malcolm Blacken.

All employees will be able to take part in these discussions, Rivera said, giving them an opportunity to "share experiences, build camaraderie with colleagues they have yet to meet or encounter and will ultimately come up with actionable items that we can do to make our community safe for the people of color."

The Redskins have also started their own Black Engagement Network (BEN), which is an NFL Employee Affinity Group that Rivera said will "strengthen the Washington Redskins' commitment to Black employees through professional development, career management, mentoring, networking, an inclusive work environment and community outreach."

Rivera said he talked at length with Redskins Owner Dan Snyder last week about having an actionable strategy, and Snyder responded by putting forth $250,000 to start these programs.

"This program that we are doing and this money that Mr. Snyder is putting in is to help us try and keep it in the DMV and in our community," Rivera said. "So we can work with the local community and try and find answers or programs that can help find answers."

2. Rivera commended the entire Washington Metropolitan community for how they came together.

Rivera took notice of the massive protests in Washington, D.C., the demonstrations outside the White House and the changing of a street name to Black Lives Matter Plaza. He also took notice of his players getting involved, highlighting Dwayne Haskins Jr., who participated in those protests, and Chase Young, who was a part of a call-to-action video with some of the NFL's best players.

In response to what Rivera called an "act of pure violence and hate," he saw the entire region quickly and powerfully band together.

"I was proud of our community for joining together to condemn these societal issues that have faced our community for far too long," Rivera said.

3. Rivera supports players kneeling during the national anthem.

When the Carolina Panthers signed safety Eric Reid in 2018, Rivera said the move was based solely on his football ability and did not take into account that he was the second NFL player after Colin Kaepernick to kneel during the national anthem in 2016.

Still, Rivera wanted to understand everything he could about the situation, so before signing Reid, he read the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, all of the amendments and Oath of Office.

"When Eric and I talked, it was an eye-opener for everyone," Rivera said. "It also helped me to really understand what the protest was about in terms of taking a knee. It had nothing to do with our military, nothing to do with our first responders, nothing to do with the flag. It had everything to do with social injustice and brutality, police brutality and working to get that corrected.

"I was fine with it because of what I had read and because of what the Constitution said and what the Bill of Rights talked about. The right to freedom, life and liberty. It is there, it talks about the rights that we have. It is their choice, their decision. I support it because it is in our Constitution. That is what our military personnel fought for, for our rights and for our safety."

Amid the ongoing protests about racial inequality, Rivera said he reread the nation's foundational documents and supports people's right of free speech.

That includes players kneeling during the national anthem, which running back Adrian Peterson said he is "without a doubt" planning to do.

"That is what really helped me to understand the importance of that," Rivera said. "When Eric Reid took his knee, he was just exercising his right."

4. Rivera reached out to dozens of people to discuss these topics.

Before coming up with his own plan of attack, Rivera leaned on dozens of people for advice.

He spoke with several sports psychologists, including Kevin Elko, [Redskins Team Clinician] Dr. [Monica] Paige and Carolina Panthers Director of Player Wellness Tish Guerin. He also talked to multiple law enforcement officials, such as his oldest brother, a retired police officer, and Sergeant Cynthia Cook, one of his wife's best friends who has worked on social initiatives in California. He discussed these issues with activist and NFL advisor Tony Porter, too.

Just as Rivera listened to these people share their unique perspectives, he expects his players to do the same. He said the biggest thing non-black players can do is listen to what black players are saying and feeling so that way they can gain empathy and understanding.

"For everyone to come together, I think the change can be made," Rivera said. "The things we do to go forward from here and where we are today can happen. The more people involved, the better off the opportunity is and the better the chances are to do something with some actionable change."

5. "Black Lives do matter. We cannot be afraid to say it, so I'll say it again. Black Lives Do Matter."

As Rivera first began contemplating how he would respond to these events, a big concern of his was that he did not want to come off as insincere. Even though he is one of four minority NFL head coaches, he did not want to compare his experiences to that of a black player or coach. It was not about him.

Above all, Rivera wanted to be thoughtful yet proactive. It's why he took the time to read some of the country's most important documents, talk to a variety of different people and listen to his new players and coworkers.

"I want to make sure that people understand that we, that I support the Black Lives Matter movement, that I want to listen to our players and listen to our employees and coaches and make sure we get this right," Rivera said. "This was very important and because of how long the peaceful protests have gone on, real change is within our grasp. We've seen it with some of the governmental moves in cities like Minnesota. I just think that there is a chance to do good right now."

Rivera said he has experienced mixed emotions over the past two weeks. He is saddened by what continues to happen to the black community, proud of everyone "on the right side of this fight against social injustice and eager to help make a difference. He's also honored to work with so many people who feel the same way.

"Black Lives matter," Rivera said. "We can't be afraid to say it. I will say it again. Black Lives matter."

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