As the murder of George Floyd grips the country, protests rage across every large city in America. Many are hoping to bring about reform to the justice system which has harbored racial injustice and allowed police brutality to go unchecked for far too long.
Protesters are pleading with local, state, and federal government for a change in the system that would bring about accountability for law enforcement while also taking note of racial injustices within some of the largest urban areas in the United States.
In response to these demonstrations professional athletes across all sports are using their platforms to voice their support in order to bring about the change that is so desperately needed. New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has decided to do the same. Benson has been at the forefront of social justice movements since her tenure as the owner of two professional sports franchises began.
Benson has recently released a statement that highlights her promise to help support reform and systematic changes to agencies that are prone to discriminatory practices.
One week ago today, George Floyd was tragically and senselessly murdered. Anger, sadness and protest followed throughout our nation in response to this unjust murder. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family of George Floyd.
There are no written words, nor the timing of those words that can properly honor the life of George Floyd. We stand against police brutality in any form. Statements are words; unified action towards a solution is what needs to come from this now.
Both the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans organizations take a tremendous amount of pride in working with our players and community leaders to impact meaningful change.
Within the last few years we have worked closely with Saints LB Demario Davis on social justice reform projects such as supporting the local public defender’s office. We donated professional office space in Benson Tower to support Operation Restoration, a program empowering women impacted by incarceration to successfully re-enter the community.
We support these types of programs as well as programs that are on the forefront of the Players Coalition mission. There are many reform projects that face our society including working with our police departments to help improve citizen relationships, supporting the public defender’s office and working to impact prison reform. We are proud of our work with the District Attorney’s office supporting victim’s issues as well. These are all complicated and yet they must be addressed together.
Benson’s commitment does not stop there. She understands, or at least tries to understand, and empathize with the African American community not just in New Orleans but across the nation. For this reason she has leaned on the advice of community leaders such as Demario Davis, Lonzo Ball, and JJ Redick.
Today, we spoke with Demario, Lonzo Ball and JJ Redick. These players are passionate about finding a solution and working in solidarity with their fellow teammates. They are all committed to change, addressing action items and building towards future social change.
I am proud to have them in our organization. We reached out seeking their advice and direction on what we can be doing more precisely to directly impact systemic change for a more just world. These are daunting initiatives, but if unified in these efforts we can make positive change. Our organization has always been a beacon of bringing our community together. We have the unique opportunity to work together with our current NBA and NFL players to find more solutions. There is still so much more work to do.
These types of actions are needed in the current climate to bring about the positive change that so many desperately seek. NFL, and quite frankly all professional sports franchise owners, need to get on board in setting the example of progressing forward.
New Orleans as a football and basketball community, as well as the United States as a whole, need to come to together as one in order to root out the injustices afflicting people of color. It takes not one individual, but a village, to create the change that we want to see.