The NFL Players Association and its players have joined President Barack Obama in his mission to build a stronger nation through the “United We Serve” initiative, a national effort designed to encourage more Americans to serve their communities.
“The players of the National Football League have a unique opportunity to serve as role models – both on and off the field – and I applaud them for answering the call to service through ‘United We Serve,’” President Obama said.“Their example proves that anyone, whether the toughest of athletes or the youngest of fans, has what it takes to make a difference in the life of their communities and their country.”
Together with the Corporation for National and Community Service, the NFLPA has taken on an important role in promoting the president’s call to action. This morning, the NFLPA distributed a public service announcement to media outlets across the country that asks Americans to volunteer their time and build stronger communities.
“I’m calling on all of you to make volunteerism and community service part of your daily life and the life of this nation,” said President Obama during the opening of the national PSA.
Following the call-to-action statement from President Obama, the PSA features players from around the NFL such as Drew Brees, Derrick Brooks and Brian Dawkins. It also includes behind-the-scenes footage of more than 30 players serving in their communities.
Though viewers may initially recognize Brees, Brooks and Dawkins as Sunday opponents, the PSA confirms one of the NFLPA’s greatest strengths: Its members are actually one locker room, one team.
Each participating player places his natural off-the-field leadership qualities on display in the message. Shaun O’Hara shares, “I help increase knowledge and education for life-threatening diseases.” O’Hara’s foundation was founded in 2009 and currently focuses on raising funds for cystic fibrosis research.
“I try to do anything for my community through my foundation, which supports inner-city schools,” Braylon Edwards said during an interview with NFL PLAYERS, the marketing and licensing arm of the NFLPA. In the PSA, Edwards gives a scholarship to a Cleveland-area high school student.
The PSA was created and produced by NFL PLAYERS, and utilized video from NFLPA outreach events, initiatives of players’ foundations and other community service projects across the country. Ultimately, each player in the PSA encourages others to make an impact in their communities by taking part in President Obama’s call to service by exploring volunteer opportunities available at www.serve.gov.
“The players of the National Football League have accepted the challenge made to all Americans by the President and the First Lady,” NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice F. Smith said on behalf of all NFL players. “It is our hope that people across the country will join us in making a difference in their communities.”
Smith also appears in the PSA, discussing his community involvement, highlighted by his coaching of youth baseball and basketball teams.
While all players possess dynamic characteristics such as heart, dedication and authenticity, some, like Brees, found themselves particularly drawn to the initiative because of their strong community ties. Brees arrived in New Orleans in 2006 just following Hurricane Katrina, and since has become an active leader and fixture in the community.
“Let’s work together to build a new foundation for America,” Brees said.
Through service, NFL players have continued to build on their long-standing commitment to team and community. Through these actions and countless others, they demonstrate that the numbers they wear on Sundays only tell part of their stories.
“I have more to offer my community than what I give them on Sundays,” Patrick Kerney told NFL PLAYERS. “When you find something you think will truly make a community better and give back to those who have given to you, it will never be labor. Football doesn’t define me.”
While new ventures like the NFL PLAYERS marketing campaigns strive to show the members of the NFLPA as multifaceted, unique men, the players union also continues with its proud tradition of honoring the exceptional community efforts of its players.
Annually, the NFLPA recognizes a select group of players who achieve excellence off the field through building better communities and stronger families at the NFL PLAYERS Gala. At the event, the NFLPA bestows its highest honor, the Byron “Whizzer” White Award, given to the player who best embodies the spirit of the late Supreme Court justice, football player and public servant.
Brooks, who won the “Whizzer” award in 2004, has long embraced a team-first attitude. During the PSA, Brooks proudly said, “At home and in the community, we are one team.”
The 2008 “Whizzer” award honoree, Dawkins, added in the PSA, “Through service, we’re making a real difference, and you can too.”
The “United We Serve” initiative, which aims to expand the impact of existing organizations by steering new volunteers their way and encourage new volunteers to develop their own “do-it-yourself” projects, focuses on five key areas: education, health, energy and the environment, community renewal, and safety and security.
Although the initiative runs for 81 days, culminating with a day of service and remembrance on September 11, it is expected to grow into a sustained and collaborative effort to promote service as a way of life for all Americans.
“Service is a solution to some of the nation’s biggest challenges, and in these tough times we need more Americans to answer the President’s call,” said Nicola Goren, acting CEO of the Corporation, which is leading the Administration’s United We Serve initiative. “We salute the NFLPA and the players for supporting United We Serve and helping build a better future for all Americans.”
The Corporation for National and Community Service created Serve.gov specifically for the “United We Serve” initiative. The online resource allows for volunteers to search for community service opportunities and also create their own community projects from scratch.
“I often say that the beauty of serving others is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be president; you don’t have to be a pro football player,” President Obama said. “All you need to do is to have a desire to make a difference, to give back to your community and to contribute to your nation.”