The NFL Players Coalition has been quite active during the league’s off-season, doing a lot of work related to bail reform.
The Players Coalition was founded in 2017 by former player Anquan Boldin and current Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins, as an off-shoot of the anthem protest movement started by Colin Kaepernick in 2016. According to their website, the mission statement of the Players Coalition is “making an impact on social justice and racial equality at the federal, state and local levels through advocacy, awareness, education, and allocation of resources.”
They’ve had a busy couple of months since the completion of the NFL season, with a lot of initiatives related to criminal justice reform.
On March 18, Players Coalition board member Devin McCourty interviewed Suffolk County DA Rachael Rollins before an audience about racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
On February 27, Carolina Panther Torrey Smith, Philadelphia Eagle Chris Long and Jenkins wrote an op-ed for USA Today about the current bail system and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner’s plan to stop seeking cash bail for a certain non-violent crimes, including drug possession and prostitution.
“A report out this month shows that Krasner’s reforms worked,” wrote the trio of current NFL players. “In fact, his plan shines as a model for cities across the nation to follow. Under the plan, an additional 1,750 Philadelphians were released without bail last year, and there was no increase in crime among those released before trial. Instead, those people were home working, spending time with their children, and doing the things that keep people away from an unforgiving system.”
On February 28, New Orleans Saints linebacker Demario Davis addressed CPAC to address bail reform.
“When I got to the league [NFL] and started to spend time in the criminal justice reform space,” Davis said. “I realized that people are going to jail simply because they can’t pay the bill. And they’re spending 7, 8 months in jail, sometimes years in jail, without even having a court date because the system is so backed up.”
Davis feels some of the current cash bail laws need to be changed.
“The people who are fighting against this are the bails bondsmen and the prosecutors: the people who benefit from sending people to jail. They all get paid based on how many people are in jail. How’s that going to affect the person standing before the judge?”
On March 8, free agent player Josh McCown, New York Jet Kelvin Beachum and Davis wrote an op-ed for the New York Daily News, discussing how the New York State bail system is unfair to poor defendants, and how lawmakers must be pressured to change the current laws.
“We recently observed arraignments in a New York City courtroom and found the spectacle appalling,” the troika wrote. “Throughout the day, handcuffed defendants were shuffled to the front of the room, where someone rapidly spat their charges at them, lawyers made brief arguments regarding the necessity of bail and the judge ordered most arrestees detained unless they paid a significant sum of money, usually in the thousands.
They went on to write, “New York’s money bail system is unjust. It makes our communities less safe, burdens poor families and, if unchecked, renders us all guilty of perpetuating an oppressive legal system.
“Each of us must pressure our elected officials to take this important step forward in making our criminal justice system fair for all New Yorkers.”