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NFL Partners With Pro-BLM Groups To ‘Dismantle Systems of Oppression.’ Here’s What That Actually Looks Like.
SoFi Stadium upper view of scoreboard before the Los Angeles Chargers boycott scrimmage on August 27, 2020, at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. (Photo by Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

In June, the NFL declared its commitment to supporting Black Lives Matter. “This is a time of self-reflection for all – the NFL is no exception,” the league said in a statement posted on social media. “We stand with the black community because Black Lives Matter. Through Inspire Change, the NFL, Players and our partners have supported programs and initiatives throughout the country to address systemic racism. We will continue using our platform to challenge the injustice around us.”

Individual NFL teams have likewise declared their support for BLM and openly touted their partnerships with various social justice organizations, among them the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers franchise revealed recently that is now working with a local, deep-pocketed social justice charity that seeks “the dismantling of the systems” that it says allows “brutal and often deadly attacks on Black people to continue.”

The NFL team announced its support for the Liberty Hill Foundation on a recent broadcast of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” that first aired on September 1. The episode featured the Chargers coaching staff encouraging players to devise a strategy to address racial inequality.

“We’re working with Liberty Hill in L.A. right now to change policies to end systemic racism,” Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn told players on a Zoom call. “Get your ass out and vote to get the right people in the position that have the same viewpoints that you have. That’s one of the important things you can do.”

Liberty Hill funds community organizing in L.A. County, the largest in the United States, with more than ten million residents. The foundation lists several homegrown activist groups as grantees, many of which have been instrumental in the development and rise of the Black Lives Matter Global Network. These allied organizations coalesce with BLM leaders to transform criminal justice throughout L.A. County and beyond.

RELATED: 8 Ways Black Lives Matter Activists Changed The Nation’s Largest Criminal Justice System

Josh Rupprecht, Chargers Vice President of Communications, told The Daily Wire that the team has “conducted several meetings, both in-person and remote, with Liberty Hill.”

“While we’re not in a position to discuss specifics in regard to the nature of those meetings, it goes without saying that we are supporting some of their racial justice efforts,” he said.

A tweet from the Obama Foundation’s My Brothers’ Keeper Alliance indicated the Chargers “will be teaming up” with Liberty Hill this season “to shine a bright light on their racial equity and social justice work.”

After protests and riots related to the death of George Floyd swept across the nation more than three months ago, Liberty Hill set up an emergency fund to “accelerate the momentum created by organizers on the ground.” Activists used the tragedy to bring attention to their ongoing calls for sweeping changes to America’s criminal justice system.

Liberty Hill’s CEO and President Shane Murphy Goldsmith, who, ironically, is also an LAPD commissioner, co-signed a statement with the foundation’s board co-chairs pledging to continue using its financial resources “to support Black-led organizing and the activists on the frontlines.”

“Across Los Angeles, our grantees and community partners, have been doing the hard work of dismantling the systems of oppression that have persisted for generations,” they wrote. “They have not given up the fight – not in the face of years of continued resistance – and not in the face of a global pandemic that has shifted the way we live, work, and organize. And neither will we.”

The Liberty Hill website urges potential donors “to make longterm commitments” to specific grantees that are “fighting anti-Black racism and police violence.” It lists several activist groups intertwined with Black Lives Matter that “may be protesting for Black Lives, organizing for justice and police accountability, working to end youth incarceration, fighting for renter protection, and building Black Power.”

The lead organizers of these recipient groups believe police and correctional facilities are institutional structures of racial oppression that must be dismantled, existing to maintain America’s capitalist social order.

RELATED: Black Lives Matter-Led Drive To ‘Defund The Police’ Also Targets Capitalism

Their plans involve gradually shifting public safety responsibilities and funding away from law enforcement and detention centers, then redistributing that money to new services centered around the universal needs of people, such as housing, healthcare, access to nutritious food, along with programs benefiting disenfranchised communities.

Here is a breakdown of five of those groups that receive money from Liberty Hill, their connection to Black Lives Matter, and role in L.A.’s progressive organizing scene:

1. Labor/Community Strategy Center

In June, video surfaced of Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors revealing that she had been trained to be a Marxist organizer. The revelation was shocking to people who were unaware that her organizing roots trace back to the Labor/Community Strategy Center.

In 2001, when Cullors was a 17-year-old high school student in L.A.’s public system, she was recruited to be groomed by a genuine 1960s radical who has been called the grandfather of Black Lives Matter. Eric Mann still runs the Strategy Center today. Yet, he is best known for his involvement with the Students for a Democratic Society and its more radical splinter group, the Weathermen.

Later called the Weather Underground, its leaders called for “direct action” over civil disobedience, which led to the FBI classifying the group as a domestic terror organization in 1969. According to the New York Times, members “advocated the violent overthrow of the United States government.” The New York Post reported, “Mann was eventually charged with assault and battery, disturbing the peace, damaging property, defacing a building and disturbing a public assembly, for which he spent 18 months behind bars.”

Liberty Hill’s website describes the Strategy Center as “a Think Tank/Act Tank for regional, national and international movement building.” The foundation’s description changed from three years ago when it had said its grantee worked “to end the criminalization and mass incarceration of Black and Latino communities by addressing conditions” inside the L.A. public schools.

2. Dignity and Power Now

Cullors, Mann’s protégé, went on to found Dignity and Power Now (DPN) in 2012. The following year, she helped established another group called Justice for Trayvon Martin, Los Angeles (#J4TMLA), which would evolve into the original chapter of the Black Lives Matter Global Network of activist groups.

DPN is a longtime recipient of Liberty Hill funding. According to DPN’s website, the group’s “mission is to build a Black and Brown led abolitionist movement rooted in community power towards the goal of achieving transformative justice and healing justice for all incarcerated people, their families, and communities.” The organization helps formerly incarcerated people reenter society through multiple leadership programs and provides services for high school-aged youth affected by police abuse and imprisonment.

Posted by Liberty Hill Foundation on Monday, March 9, 2015


The nonprofit has created multiple coalitions aimed at changing specific policies related to the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department (LASD), which provides policing services to more than 40 contract cities and operates the most extensive jail system in the world.

Cullors and DPN led drives to establish a civilian oversight panel to watch over the agency, then launched another campaign to give that body more power. Another DPN-led coalition pressured lawmakers to scrap a $1.7 billion jail project and develop a plan to shut down an outdated correctional facility that houses more than 5,600 inmates.

RELATED: Landslide: Black Lives Matter Leader’s Ballot Measure Wins Big In Los Angeles County

DPN’s website affirms that the organization is “grounded in the principles of abolition.” The activist group sponsored an abolition conclave in L.A. more than three years ago that featured Dr. Angela Davis, a 1960s revolutionary who was affiliated with the Black Panthers and Communist Party USA. She shared the stage with Cullors and other prominent BLM leaders.

Davis told attendees that abolition is “about reimagining justice” and asking the questions, “What would justice look like if we lived in a society that could not depend on prisons and could not depend on police?”

She emphasized that the concept requires tearing down oppressive systems simultaneously.

“Abolition asks us to think about what it is we need to do to transform the entire context, the entire society,” Davis said.

“Ultimately, I think we’re led to recognize that we will have to overthrow the economic system under which we live,” she would go on to tell the gathering. “We will have to look beyond capitalism. We need something else – whether we want to call it socialism or communism or whatever, we need something else.”

3. Youth Justice Coalition

Liberty Hill also contributes to the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC). The foundation’s website says YJC works “to build a youth, family, and formerly and currently incarcerated people’s movement to challenge Los Angeles California’s…addiction to incarceration, and race, gender and class inequality throughout the juvenile justice systems.”

YJC is listed on Black Lives Matter-L.A.’s website under the category, “Who We Get Down With.”

According to Black Lives Matter: “The YJC’s goal is to dismantle policies and institutions that have ensured the massive lock-up of people of color, widespread law enforcement violence and corruption, consistent violation of youth and communities, Constitutional and human rights, the construction of a vicious school-to-jail track, and the build-up of the world’s largest network of jails and prisons.”

The YJC often works with the ACLU, sometimes crafting and co-sponsoring statewide legislation, usually focusing on the juvenile justice system.

The group considers abolition to be “a process, rather than an event” and has vowed to dismantle oppressive systems with its allies collectively.

4. Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN)

According to Liberty Hill, the L.A. Community Action Network’s (LA CAN) “mission is to help people dealing with poverty create and discover opportunities, while serving as a vehicle to ensure community members have a voice, power, and opinion in the decisions that are directly affecting them.”

Located in downtown L.A. with an emphasis on the Skid Row neighborhood, LA CAN organizes and empowers homeless and disadvantaged communities to fight for racial and economic justice. The organization has long been one of Black Lives Matter’s staunchest allies, often working together on actions intended to disrupt business-as-usual for LAPD and defund law enforcement agencies. LA CAN’s website lists “overarching social change goals” that include eliminating “the multiple forms of violence used against and within our community to maintain status quo.”

In July 2016, LA CAN hosted a free Prophets of Rage concert for the Skid Row community. Performers Chuck D and Tom Morello used LA CAN’s rooftop as their stage, where a Black Lives Matter organizer took the mic and called for the abolition of police, then declared the space a “no cop zone.”

Pete White, LA CAN’s executive director, is also a Black Lives Matter member.

Dr. Melina Abdullah, a professor at Cal State LA who also leads BLM’s L.A. chapter, sits on LA CAN’s board of directors.

5. The Schools L.A. Students Deserve (a.k.a. Students Deserve)

The Schools L.A. Students Deserve is a youth-led education reform group. In addition to being a Liberty Hill grantee, it also received financial support from the foundation’s Rapid Response for Racial Justice Fund.

Known as Students Deserve, it has partnerships with Black Lives Matter and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the union representing more than 30,000 educators, librarians, and counselors working in the L.A. Unified School District. UTLA members elected a Black Lives Matter member as its president earlier this year.

RELATED: Black Lives Matter Member Elected To Lead Los Angeles’ Largest Teachers Union

BLM’s Dr. Abdullah has mentored top organizers from Students Deserve who, along with the Black Lives Matter Youth Vanguard, have spent years rallying classmates, teachers, and parents against the district’s random search policy and police department.

The Students Deserve website clarifies the group’s goals: “We want schools to divest from criminalization and policing. We want schools to invest in us as Black, Muslim, undocumented, indigenous, and queer youth in poor and working class communities of color.”

UTLA negotiated on the student-activists’ behalf in a deal that ended a six-day strike in 2019, then officially joined the call to defund the L.A. School Police Department.

In June, the L.A. Board of Education voted 4-3 to reduce the budget the district’s police budget by 35%, which equates to a $25 million cut. The L.A. Times reported the change was “in response to weeks of protests by student activists and community groups who had called for the elimination of the department.” The outlet went on to report that “the money saved from the cuts is to be allocated to fund staff to specifically serve the needs of Black students and a task force that will study ways to reimagine the issue of student and campus safety.”

As part of that campaign, Students Deserve and Black Lives Matter launched a survey that, according to Liberty Hill, “played a vital role in the School Board’s action.”

The Students Deserve website affirms it supports “everything that the Black Lives Matter Global Network is demanding in terms of permanent structural supports for communities,” and all “that the United Teacher Los Angeles is demanding of local and state leaders.”

Meanwhile, at least 18 organizations that received funding from the Liberty Hill Foundation have partnered with Black Lives Matter to push a countywide voter referendum on the November ballot. The proposal, called the Re-Imagine L.A. County initiative, would amend the charter to require at least 10% of the county’s general fund to be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration. According to the L.A. Times, “the county would be prohibited from using the money on prisons, jails or law enforcement agencies.” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the measure is an attempt to slash funding from his department.

Jenny Punsalan Delwood, Liberty Hill’s Executive Vice President, sits on the campaign’s steering committee.

“We are in the moment to take action, build stronger communities, and reimagine policing,” a recent post on Liberty Hill’s Twitter account reads.

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