For the past three months, the Atlanta Falcons have partnered with the Atlanta Police Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity to get ownership, coaches and players involved in serving the community and creating conversations.
In the video released by the Falcons Monday documenting the team’s efforts in the Atlanta area, Falcons owner Arthur Blank spoke of the time spent listening to player discussions and their concerns about social injustice, prison reform, relationships with law enforcement among others.
“Players have that First Amendment right, we all have that First Amendment right to speak out and speak up on things as we see them,” Blank said in the video. “But we’ve asked them to, let’s convert that from protest to progress and that’s what I really want to measure ourselves. There’s more attention to issues that are legitimate and we want to honor the American flag, we want players to stand, we want them to be at attention, we want their hand over their heart, we expect all those things because all of our military people they deserve that because of the commitments they’re made to service in this country.
“We want to be able to focus on these issues and we’re all working together in that regard and if we turn this into a political kind of football, if you will, it’s not healthy because that becomes a real distraction to the work we’re trying to do.”
The story of the Falcons’ involvement in the Atlanta area over the past three months comes after NFL owners created a league rule during meetings last month in Atlanta requiring players to stand for the national anthem in reaction to player protests of social injustice in the last two seasons.
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The Falcons video detailed how Blank, coach Dan Quinn and 17 players spent time on ride-alongs with the Atlanta police officers and learning the pressure of being a police officer in simulations.
“You won’t understand until you’re in a certain situation,” Falcons running back Devonta Freeman said. “Those guys go through a lot as policemen and I respect it because it’s hard. You can sometimes misjudge.”
Players Mohamed Sanu Jr., Brian Poole and Grady Jarrett also spent time with children from Atlanta area schools and the Boys and Girls Club to help facilitate conversation with police officers.