NFL, players reach deal on supporting activism but protests during national anthem could continue  

NFL team owners and a coalition of players seeking social justice reform and racial equality reached a tangible financial partnership. But the deal won’t guarantee the one thing NFL owners sought since the start of the 2017 NFL season: a definitive end to protests during the national anthem.

Owners and a contingent of players reached an agreement Wednesday night that would commit at least $89 million to national and local community efforts, and social justice reform initiatives through 2023. The funds are expected to be spread out in a multitude of ways, with portions dedicated to Dream Corps and the United Negro College Fund. A sizable portion of the money will also be controlled for disbursement by the Players Coalition, which is seeking nonprofit status and has begun to build out a structure to become a fully functioning charity controlled by players.

While the deal qualifies as a type of win for both the players and owners, it didn’t come without some significant loose ends. Chief among them is that the Players Coalition could not guarantee to team owners that protests will be completely discontinued across the league. The coalition has no binding power over the league’s players and cannot influence any remaining protests that continue in the coming weeks or seasons. However, two sources told Yahoo Sports that it’s expected the vast majority of the 40-plus players represented by the coalition will cease forms of protest in the coming weeks.

Those ranks apparently won’t include San Francisco 49ers safety Eric Reid, Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas and Los Angeles Chargers offensive lineman Russell Okung. Each pulled out of the coalition this week after disagreements arose regarding the negotiation of the deal and what it means for the social activism of some players going forward.

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NFL players, owners protest after criticism from Trump
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NFL players, owners protest after criticism from Trump
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts players kneel during the playing of the National Anthem before the game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Baltimore Ravens players kneel for the American National anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Members of the Dallas Cowboys link arms and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (L-R) Wide recceivers Chris Moore and Breshad Perriman of the Baltimore Ravens pray prior to kickoff during the NFL match between The Jacksonville Jaguars and The Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mitchell Gunn/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: Jacksonville Jaguar players show their protest during the National Anthem during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 24: (Editors Note: This image has been turned black and white) Jacksonville Jaguars enter te stadium during the NFL International Series match between Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium on September 24, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Denver Broncos at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Denver Bronco players kneel in protest during the National Anthem before a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) and teammates stand next to service members holding a giant US flag during the national anthem prior to the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; The Cleveland Browns team stand and kneel during the National Anthem before the start of their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers link arms during the national anthem prior to the game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin (44) middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead (59) running back Ameer Abdullah (21) outside linebacker Steve Longa (54) defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter (98) defensive end Armonty Bryant (97) defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (91) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (90) kneel during the national anthem before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Members of the Denver Broncos kneel during the playing of the national anthem prior to a game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2017; Glendale, AZ, USA; The Dallas Cowboys players, coaches and staff take a knee prior to the National Anthem before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the playing of the United Sates national anthem before a NFL International Series game against the Baltimore Ravens at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots take a knee during the national anthem before a game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Some of the Miami Dolphins take a knee during the anthem prior to the game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Foxborough, MA, USA; Members of the New England Patriots kneel for the national anthem before the start of the game against the Houston Texans at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars players kneel during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Patrick Omameh of the Jacksonville Jaguars kneels during the U.S. national anthem before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder stands with cornerback Josh Norman (24) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) and safety D.J. Swearinger (36) during the playing of the national anthem before the game between the Washington Redskins and the Oakland Raiders at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Landover, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders players sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to their game against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Carson, CA, USA; Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Marcus Peters (22) protests next to running back Charcandrick West (35) and defensive tackle Roy Miller (98) during the National Anthem prior to the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at StubHub Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers tight end Lance Kendricks (84) and tight end Martellus Bennett (80) sit on the bench during the national anthem prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 24, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Recording artist Meghan Linsey kneels after singing the national anthem before the game between the Tennessee Titans and the Seattle Seahawks at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
September 24, 2017; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets players lock arms during the national anthem before the game against the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan links arms with players during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 24: Members of the Chicago Bears stand arm-in-arm during the National Anthem before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Soldier Field on September 24, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Justin Houston #50 of the Kansas City Chiefs is seen taking a knee during the National Anthem before the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at the StubHub Center on September 24, 2017 in Carson, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
NFL Football - Jacksonville Jaguars vs Baltimore Ravens - NFL International Series - Wembley Stadium, London, Britain - September 24, 2017 General view during the national anthems before the match Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers
At the start of the game protestors take a knee in support of the movement started by NFL player Colin Kaepernick, outside Lincoln Financial Field, in South Philadelphia, PA, on September 24, 2017. Similar protest are staged around the nation after US President Donald Trump named Kaepernick a Son of A Bitch at a recent rally. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
GLENDALE, AZ - SEPTEMBER 25: Strong safety Tyvon Branch #27 of the Arizona Cardinals links arms with staff and players during the National Anthem before the start of the NFL game against the Dallas Cowboys at the University of Phoenix Stadium on September 25, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Sources familiar with the negotiations between the players and NFL over the past few weeks said the Players Coalition was riddled with disagreements – many coming from Reid – ranging from the role of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick; to the use of the mediator in negotiations; to the structure and leadership of the coalition itself. And now, as one source pointed out Wednesday night, there are concerns over who will have the final say over the decisions and distribution of funds.

The concerns stem from one point: the representation of a working group of 12 individuals who will drive the financial initiatives forward and have a significant amount of control over the pool of money and how it is used. As it is written, the group will be comprised of five players, five owners (or their consiglieres), and two representatives with the league office. In effect, that group suggests the balance of decisions will belong to the NFL and not the players because the league will have a 7-5 advantage in representation within the group.

It remains to be seen if that imbalance represents a problem – not to mention if a smattering of likely continued protests irk owners who are earmarking money to activism efforts. But one thing is certain: the striking of a deal will provide an appearance that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was able to pull together an agreement.

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Protesters gather outside NFL meetings in New York City
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Protesters gather outside NFL meetings in New York City
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Activist Glenn Cantave joins others in a coalition of advocacy groups who were 'taking a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: A coalition of advocacy groups demonstrate outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: A coalition of advocacy groups demonstrate outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on October 17, 2017 in New York City. Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Oct 17, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Black Lives Matter New York president Hawk Newsome speaks to media outside of the Conrad Hotel where the NFL owners meeting is set to take place. Mandatory Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 17, 2017; New York, NY, USA; K Sloan sings the national anthem for protestors and media outside of the Conrad Hotel where the NFL owners meeting is set to take place. Mandatory Credit: Catalina Fragoso-USA TODAY Sports
Glenn Cantave poses after a rally with other demonstrators outside the location of the annual NFL owners meeting in New York City, NY, U.S. October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Demonstrators rally outside the NFL owners meeting in New York City, NY, U.S. October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Demonstrators rally outside the location of the annual NFL owners meeting in New York City, NY, U.S. October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
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Along with the reality that millions are being directed toward players’ initiatives, Goodell may have some momentum at his back when owners meet in December to discuss his next contract extension. That owners-only meeting is slated to take place on Dec. 13 in Irving, Texas. It’s believed the NFL’s compensation committee wants to have the details of Goodell’s contract extension finalized prior to that meeting – although there is no guarantee that happens.

But with a likely downturn in anthem protests expected the next two weekends due to this latest deal, Goodell may have at least one less piece of unfinished business to explain.

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