Austin-based Justice Center to receive NFL funding: Texas Appleseed to receive $6.5m portion – Reuters
Texas apple seedthe Austin-based public interest justice center, again received a major grant from the National Football Leaguepart of the NFL Inspire change social justice initiative. “The work that Texas Appleseed does embodies the true meaning of Inspire Change,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL senior vice president for social responsibility. “Their ongoing efforts to reform policies and practices that disproportionately affect low-income and minority residents, as well as their work with key decision makers, show their commitment to Texans across the state.”
Twenty-one organizations nationwide are distributing $6.5 million in funds through this grant renewal. Some of them are well-known national nonprofits – Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys & Girls Club, National Urban League – but most are groups like Texas Appleseed whose job is to challenge those in power and to fight for real change in the way they treat the poor. and marginalized. Thus, the Inspire Change initiative follows at least the discourse it launched in 2017, in the middle of the Colin Kaepernick controversy and the previous year’s police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile outside Saint Paul.
Texas Appleseed’s core mission is to promote justice for all by “leveraging the skills and resources of pro bono attorneys, other professionals, and community partners to identify practical solutions to difficult systemic issues.” Jennifer Carrion, director of TA’s Criminal Justice Project, highlights some of those practical solutions the NFL is helping to bring to fruition, such as ending driver’s license suspensions for not paying previous fines (and then incurring new fines if he is caught driving without a licence). “There is a cycle of indebtedness [incurred by] unlicensed drivers, who are liable to a third-party provider to pay fees and fines for what are essentially traffic violations,” Carreon said, noting that this affects “tens of thousands” of Texans. “And none of that money is going back into the communities. So we are working diligently to end this program across the state. They have already successfully ended local fines resulting in license suspensions in Harris County, Austin and Dallas.
Other initiatives the NFL is helping to pay for include “reducing the number of contacts with law enforcement for people with mental health or addiction issues”; a Clean Slate initiative making it easier for Texans with low-level criminal records to seal them (it’s possible now, but only 1 in 700 eligible Texans have managed to do so); and securing higher education offers in the state’s adult and juvenile prisons, a “rare” criminal justice reform measure that also enjoys substantial support from conservatives.
Much of Texas Appleseed’s support over its 26-year history has come from other Texans — law firms, foundations, philanthropies. But support from national organizations — especially high-profile ones like the NFL — is becoming “imperative” to his work, Carreon says. “From a statewide perspective, the political landscape informs the business landscape and the people who have the money to potentially fund things like this at the state level. We are in the belly of the beast here; criminal justice reform in Texas is impacting Republican politics in every Southern state, so what we do here matters.” Such support sends a message that official Texas policy “doesn’t align with how all Texans feel and that we need help,” Carreon said. “And that help comes in many forms, including funding.”