NFL punts $300K to Portland organization to address social justice

The Oregon Justice Resource Center focuses on civil rights and legal representation

FILE – In this Aug. 13, 2021, file photo, an NFL logo is displayed on a goal post pad during an NFL preseason football game between the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions in Detroit. The NFL has instituted some policy changes to the Rooney Rule designed to further enhance diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring practices. The rule has been expanded to require teams to interview at least two external minority candidates for general manager/executive of football operations positions, and all coordinator roles. Beforehand, the requirement was to interview one minority from outside a team for openings in those positions. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The National Football League doesn’t have a team in Oregon but is investing thousands of dollars to help one organization with social justice causes.

The Oregon Justice Resource Center received $300,000 from the league’s Inspire Change social justice initiative, which highlights efforts from NFL players and national philanthropic organizations by “reducing barriers to opportunity.” The OJRC works to advance civil rights and enhance legal representation within underserved communities, including people of color and those in poverty.

Bobbin Singh, the executive director of OJRC, said the NFL reached out to them to collaborate.

“We were humbled first and foremost,” said Singh. “Oregon’s not in an NFL market in the sense that we don’t have an NFL team here. So, for the NFL to look out of market into states and jurisdictions that don’t have teams is a remarkable thing to be doing.”

So far, he added, the organization is splitting the money between two programs: the Women’s Justice Project and the Youth Justice Project.

The Women’s Justice Project has been in the community for six years. It provides legal services to women who are going through the criminal justice system.

“The supports and services that we provide are generally around issues that are poverty related issues that have been exacerbated by incarceration… reducing fines and fees, helping women stay in connection with their minor children,” explained Singh.

Part of the project also helps Native American women with unique issues that are connected to local tribes and tribes across the country.

As for the Youth Justice Project, the program helps kids or teenagers that are being prosecuted as adults or have been prosecuted as adults in the legal system to “ensure that those youth that are they charged with these serious crimes are getting legal support and services they need.”

“It’s based on the fundamental principle that no youth is irredeemable. That every youth should have an opportunity for meaningful release,” said Singh.

He said that criminal justice and mass incarceration is the “racial justice issue of our time.”

Singh hopes that other funders will be inspired to invest in social justice issues in the future.

“When the NFL comes into something like this, it also then legitimizes other funders to be able to say, ‘It’s OK for us to believe… that (people) are not only their crime but also a father, mother, brother, sister, a child and have tremendous value to the community,’” he said.

Since 2017, the NFL has awarded more than $160 million in grants to social justice organizations as part of the initiative, according to the league. The OJRC was one of about 500 organizations to receive money in the latest round of funds.

KOIN 6 News reached out to the NFL for comment about the initiative but did not hear back by deadline.