ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — In the wake of the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the marches that resulted throughout the country, the Broncos affirmed that even after the protests, the organization would remain committed to racial equity.
"What I've told the team] is, ‘We’re committed to addressing these issues with you and we are going to keep listening to you,’” [President and CEO Joe Ellis said in July. "… We are committed to following through for them and keeping it going as we move forward."
In the months that followed, the Broncos have continued that effort by starting two new programs — "We Stand For" and Broncos Inspire Change — and on Thursday, the team announced a donation of more than $250,000 to player-designated organizations.
With a focus on three main areas — Education & Youth, Bail & Criminal Justice Reform and Community Mental Health Resources — the team distributed $40,000 each to five Colorado organizations and programs as part of the Broncos’ Social Justice Fund. The fund also gave out a total of $52,500 to five other organizations selected by players and coaches.
"We were excited and honored today to announce a $250,000 commitment towards player-designated social justice programs throughout Colorado, as well as local initiatives and individual player communities," Executive Director of Community Development Allie Engelken said. "… While we close out 2020, we're excited to work with these incredible organizations moving forward into the offseason and next year in working on programming and meaningful impact together."
In addition to the financial support, the Broncos have also incorporated this commitment into their weekly schedule with addition of a "Power Hour" session where members of the team could discuss social issues important to them.
"At the early announcement of the Inspire Change program, [Head] Coach [Vic] Fangio committed to adding Power Hour as part of the football schedule on Tuesdays," Engelken said. "… They are voluntary and open to any member of the team, but also the coaching staff and any of the football staff. The goal is to continue … momentum and moving progress forward in the areas of social justice. We worked individually with players who would attend for topics, speakers and area experts that they would want to hear from in order to put some of their plans into action."
Every week, players would hear from guest speakers or have dialogues with one another about the financial opportunities for the Social Justice Fund, and in the end, the result was the distribution announced on Thursday and, overall, a greater commitment to the cause.
"It's something our players have done a great job with," Fangio said. "Obviously, when it all started, everybody was enthusiastic about it. I think our players — different than many people — sustained it throughout the season and have done a great job with this. We had a social justice power hour every Tuesday that the players could attend that we made available to them. We had various speakers and issues that they were able to listen to and discuss. Our players have done a great job with it. They've been persistent, and I applaud them for it."
Though this isn't the first year the Broncos have made a donation through their Social Justice Fund, all the work that has been done throughout the year has represented a significant amount of progress, to be sure.
"To see the little steps that we've taken — not just as an organization in Denver, but I think in the NFL — just the little steps that we've seen them take have been steps in the right direction, but always looking to keep that going," Justin Simmons said. "Not to be stagnant and thinking that just doing a few things here and there and kind of just promoting a few things here and there will kind of change it, but always consistently staying on top of this from here on out. It's been great seeing all the support and all of the communication heading in the right direction. I just hope it's not just because this year was so prominent in bringing all those things up. I hope that happens for years and years to come because we know how powerful the shield is and the NFL can be, and there could be a lot of good change coming with that support."