- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Super Bowl isn’t until Sunday, but already several winners have emerged from the 2018 NFL regular season, including a George Soros-funded activist group that takes a dim view of the border patrol and police.

The NFL-funded Players Coalition announced Wednesday that it had awarded $2 million in grants to six nonprofit organizations, a list that included the Advancement Project National Office, which has received millions from Mr. Soros’s Open Society Foundations, according to InfluenceWatch, a project of the conservative Capital Research Center.

The 20-year-old Advancement Project, known for fighting voter-identification laws, rallied for “police-free schools” at a December protest featuring a poster of a pig in a police hat.

The group also participated in last year’s school gun-control walkout; blasted CNN for firing commentator Marc Lamont Hill over a speech criticized as anti-Semitic, and called for making Immigration and Customs Enforcement “unnecessary” by “decriminalizing immigration.”

“The fight to #AbolishICE is inseparable from the fight to abolish the police,” tweeted the Advancement Project in July. “We’re here for both.”

The other five groups receiving grants were the National Juvenile Defender Center; Communities in Schools; the Justice Collaborative; Year Up, and the Center for Policing Equity.

Players Coalition public-relations manager Lindsay Means defended Advancement Project, saying the players were “honored to work with them.”

“For decades, The Advancement Project has been a pillar in ensuring that kids of color are treated with dignity and that they receive the same opportunities as their peers,” she said in an email. “Their work on issues like the school-to-prison pipeline is essential to ensuring that our country meets its promise of fairness and equality, and we are honored to work with them.”

The Players Coalition emerged at the end of the 2017 NFL regular season as team owners grappled with the national-anthem protests roiling the league, ultimately agreeing to a $90 million, seven-year initiative for social-justice causes.

The coalition, founded by Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins and retired player Anquan Boldin, received $3.2 million from the NFL in 2018, as well as funding from Fwd.US, Open Philanthropy and other groups, according to its press office.

The grants were aimed at boosting nonprofit organizations working in communities “where players work, reside and play,” with a focus on the issues of “juvenile justice and bail reform; police transparency and accountability, equal education and economic advancement opportunities for low-income communities,” according to the press release.

“Our goal has always been to work hand in hand with groups that can provide evidence-based solutions to achieve change and make a lasting difference on impacted citizens,” Mr. Boldin said in a statement.

The coalition, which has both a 501©3 charitable arm and 501©4 advocacy arm, has been credited with helping move the focus away from on-the-field protests to in-the-community service on issues such as cash-bail reform; charging fewer kids as adults, and restoring the voting rights of most convicted felons.

The effort paid off for the league. Only three players knelt during the national anthem during the 2018 regular season, resulting in a huge drop in media attention, while the NFL reversed its ratings slide with a 5 percent increase in television viewership.

Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project National Office, said Wednesday that the grant would be used to help “re-imagine public safety,” adding that the “current criminal legal system is the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.”

“Through our partnership with Players Coalition Charitable Foundation, we aim to dismantle the institutional systems that fuel mass incarceration, criminalize poverty and funnel students from school to prison,” she said in a statement.

The Advancement Project received $3.9 million from the Soros-funded Open Society Project from 1999-2012, as well as $552,775 from the Foundation to Promote Open Society, according to InfluenceWatch.

“While its stated objective is to address race and civil rights issues through the legal system and community activism, AP is in fact a key left-wing agitation group that organizes opposition to voter identification laws,” said the InfluenceWatch description.

The AP has also taken stands on NFL-related issues, calling for renaming the Washington Redskins and cheering the take-a-knee protests led by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. His foundation gave the group a grant in January 2017.

CRC president Scott Walter said it was unfortunate that the Players Coalition only awarded grants to groups promoting liberal solutions to social ills.

“America has a great tradition of the wealthy funding causes they believe in,” Mr. Walter in an email. “NFL multimillionaires have every right to support these grantees, and are understandably concerned about failing schools, crime, and poverty. But it’s sad to see this money going exclusively to groups that are liberal to far-left, because if their ideology actually worked, America’s big cities would have great schools and little crime or poverty.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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