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FALCONS TAKE ACTION: 2019

The Atlanta Falcons strive to make an impact beyond what is seen on the field on Sundays. This mission extends from the players up to Owner and Chairman Arthur M. Blank. As part of the team's commitment to improve the local community, Falcons players have focused on initiatives that address social justice issues.

"It's important because we don't live in a country that's perfect, we live in a great country, the greatest in the world, but we have issues here. The way to address them is to bring attention to them, which the players have helped us do. I'm proud of the NFL, the NFLPA, the Players' Coalition, and most importantly that our own players are heavily involved in working on issues that they think are important." - Arthur Blank

At the beginning of March, the player led and player formed Social Justice Players Committee of Ricardo Allen, De'Vondre Campbell, Steven Means, Mohamed Sanu and Wes Schweitzer met with Head Coach Dan Quinn to discuss social justice issues in our community and across the nation. Players each identified their own specific focus areas between the issues addressed and put their words into action through identifying organizations in need and making their mark at the grassroots level.

To start things off, Arthur Blank, Allen, Campbell and Schweitzer attended the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Board Meeting in Montgomery, Alabama on April 9. Players visited the National Memorial and Museum sponsored by the Equal Justice Initiative and participated in conversations throughout the day regarding social justice issues.

As soon as players returned for the voluntary offseason program, Means, Campbell along with other players went to a local Boys & Girls Club alongside Atlanta police officers for a social justice conversation with male teens. The conversations ranged from violence in their community, emotional stability, mental health and financial literacy.

"I have a lot of personal experience with my area of Social Justice, which is visiting adults and youth within the criminal system. I think it's just important to be able to go sit down with them because from my experience to sit down with guys who have been in and out of the prison system and hear them say that me coming to talk to them is motivation and it is vice versa. Me going to talk to them is motivation because that is not where I want to be and that's not where they want to be. A lot of the guys I met were intelligent but just happened to make mistakes along the way." - De'Vondre Campbell

The following week, Campbell, Allen, Kemal Ishmael, Jamon Brown, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Devin Gray and Christian Blake went to Metro Reentry Facility to visit with offenders who are pursuing reentry into society. These conversations included graduates and mentors of the Offender Alumni Association, which is an organization that offers peer-to-peer support and fellowship between individuals with similar life experiences.

"One of the biggest misconceptions a lot of us get is if we're not giving money back to the community that we're not actually helping. I think going to (the reentry center) and none of them asked us for help or for tickets or to put any money on their bond or anything. They were just happy to see us and come and show that we're from the same communities, same towns and sometimes very similar backgrounds and we're showing them that there are other ways to become somebody, there are other ways to do something in this world, there are other ways to make your family proud." - Ricardo Allen

Three Thursday nights in a row, multiple players went to the Atlanta Police Department to experience the community through the lens of a police officer by taking a ride through Atlanta's westside neighborhood to learn firsthand what it takes to protect and serve. Falcons who participated in the ride-alongs included Means, Schweitzer, Jacob Tuioti-Mariner, Isaiah Oliver, JJ Wilcox, Jaeden Graham, Damontae Kazee, Ryan Neal and Head Coach Dan Quinn.

"When we were younger, social media wasn't real hot, but now with everything being brought to the forefront it just put it in a different perspective, but at the same time you get to see the other side of the spectrum and I think that's the most dynamic piece of it. That's the part that's missing because you can sit on one side and not really understand the other side, but now to be able to have these (ride-alongs) that the Falcons provide you can see the other side of it and you can try to piece it together and go forward with our platform and make a difference." - Steven Means

On May 15, CampbellFoye Oluokun along with other players went to the DeKalb Youth Detention Center to engage in conversations with the youth and listen in on a "Know Your Rights" panel. The panel included a judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, police chief, police officer and probation officer who all educated the youth on how to establish and develop trust between police and community.

For the final week of OTAs, the Falcons participated in a social justice moment EVERY DAY of the week.

On June 3, three rising seniors from two different high schools came to the training facility to be paired with a player for a day-long immersion into the Falcons culture. The goal for this was not only to help develop diverse leaders but will also facilitate a transfer of the Falcons positive leadership culture in the locker room to the students from these two schools with very different backgrounds. The Falcons also hosted six seniors from two other high schools to a same experience on May 29.

"I just hope they were able to take away how guys come from different backgrounds, different circumstances, different situations, different upbringings, all different parts of the country and able to just to gel and function at a high level for a common goal. We all became super close because of this. If we’re able to do that I’m sure everyone in the world can do that." - Mohamed Sanu

The players who were mentors for the two days included Sanu, Oluokun, BrownDevonta Freeman, Jake Matthews, Duke Riley, Justin Hardy, Adam Gettis, Tyeler Davison, Adrian Clayborn and JJ Wilcox.

On June 4, the team hosted teens at the training facility involved with Foreverfamily, a state-wide organization that focuses on providing services to children with incarcerated parents and their families. NFL Legends and members of the Players Coalition, Takeo Spikes and Adalius Thomas, joined the group at practice and spoke to the teens on goal setting and forming good habits. After that day's OTA practice, Clayborn, Deadrin Senat, Brian Hill and John Cominsky went to eat lunch and chat with the teens about their own upbringing, perseverance and other social justice issues.

On June 5, Allen, Campbell, Michael Bennett and Tuitoi-Mariner went to the Atlanta Youth Detention Center to be part of the Showcase Group program. The Showcase Group program focuses on therapeutic interventions and life skill building for youth involved in the criminal justice system. This visit also included a "Dinner of Champions" where youth shared their life experiences and learned from players how hard work, dedication and passion can translate to personal success.

"You can do anything in this world. There are people making money all kinds of different ways and one of the best things I think I can do is inspire them because a lot of the commotion, a lot of the confusion comes from the lack of money so just trying to inspire them at such a young age to push, to put the hours in. You have a long life to live." - Ricardo Allen

June 6 was the final police ride-along of the offseason and Head Coach Dan Quinn, Damontae Kazee and Ryan Neal represented the Falcons.

On June 7, Schweitzer, Giorgio Tavecchio, Alex Gray, the 2019 Rookie Class and Atlanta Police Officers came together to work on a Habitat for Humanity build that will provide a new home to an Atlanta Westside resident.

“Last year, I went to my first Habitat and we worked with Zone 1 police and it just completely blew me away. The person who gets the house has to hit all these check marks and then they have to work on the house themselves for 250 hours. You’re there working with the person getting the house and you can see how much it means to them, they’ve never had anything like this in their life and they’re working for it. I really believe and connect with that, hard work means a lot to me. So I did it again this year.” -Wes Schweitzer
“Social Justice means to me just getting everybody to understand the perspectives. That’s the biggest misconception. Not everybody knows perspectives of everything, everyone sees everything from a different lens. If everyone gets educated, learns from a different perspective we’ll be able to be more compatible." - Mohamed Sanu
Created By
Gaby Moran
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