Alicia Keys Teams with NFL to Launch $1 Billion Endowment for Black Businesses and Communities

As America continues to wrestle with the systemic racism that to this day impacts millions of its citizens, the NFL is undergoing a reckoning of its own. After blackballing Colin Kaepernick for beginning the “take a knee” protests during the National Anthem, the league has been clawing its way back from a hole of racial insensitivity. The latest move comes in collaboration with Alicia Keys, who has agreed to perform at the NFL Kickoff event and is teaming with the league to create a $1 billion endowment fund for Black business and communities.

In a statement issued to Billboard, Keys says she saw the collaboration as an opportunity to “use my platform to further racial equity.” She’s also penned a letter explaining her decision to take part in the NFL Kickoff show, which airs tonight, September 10th, at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC. “My initial reaction was to decline because of some of the NFL’s past decisions,” Keys writes. “Yet I realized I HAVE to use my platform, we all need to use our platforms, every chance we get to press for racial equity.”

Because the NFL is “already committed to ensuring Black representation across-the-board, from employees to executives, contractors, suppliers and vendors,” Keys says the next logical step is launching an endowment.

“The fund will be steered by Black leadership with a clear goal to empower Black America. The fund will create long term solutions with a focus on Black entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, Black schools, banks, and other Black institutions, while addressing persistent social, economic and environmental disparities. It’s starting here, but the intention is to build a multi-billion-dollar endowment across multiple industries. Through our collective action, we can end the needless and preventable agony created by systemic racism.”

The letter also makes a call for “sustainable action” building off the swell of support in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Bree Black, and too many more. To that end, Keys sees the new endowment as just the first of many. “Even with that it does not come close to closing the economic gap. The next steps are to reach out to different industries to invite them to invest in racial justice and create a multi-billion dollar endowment across business sectors,” she tells Billboard. Other partners and contributors to the $1 billion fund haven’t been disclosed.

Listen to Alicia Keys on This Must Be the Gig Podcast

To close her letter, Keys gives kudos to Kaepernick, saying his “silent protest was a brave and necessary stand to increase our awareness of the acts and consequences of police brutality.”What is being accomplished by this performance and these new commitments are meant to deeply honor that this moment is a direct result of his courage and prophecy.”

Read Keys’ full letter below.

The news of Keys’ performance and the new endowment fund come as the NFL ramps up its social justice programs for the 2020-2021 season. In addition to playing the Black National Anthem (“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”) before every Week 1 game, phrases like “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” will be painted in end zones. Last summer, JAY-Z partnered with the league for their live music entertainment and social justice strategies. The mogul had some hand in getting Kaep a tryout last fall, but that didn’t exactly turn out so well.

“While the streets of America are filled with rightful outrage, something has struck me deeply and I know I cannot turn away. None of us can. As Americans, we actually have to face each other, even if we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. I continue to think: what opportunity for change can I evoke? How can I help to transform a culture so ripe for reimagining?

Today, I will be doing something I never thought I would do again. I’m performing for the NFL Kickoff event. My initial reaction was to decline because of some of the NFL’s past decisions. Yet I realized I HAVE to use my platform, we all need to use our platforms, every chance we get to press for racial equity.

It’s often said football is the microcosm of America. We all can see that deep, radical change is needed for our country and together we can all work to transform it. It will take each of us to understand that racism and racial injustice rely on our individual and collective silence and ignorance. If you know that there are two Americas – one that seems safe and full of possibilities and another where a racial hierarchy allows for Black Americans to be systematically brutalized and dehumanized – and you do not act, then you are complicit.

This truth requires restorative justice now. What are we going to do to move forward?

The workforce of America has to represent the diversity of this country. We have to strive for true population parity. The NFL has already committed to ensuring Black representation across-the-board, from employees to executives, contractors, suppliers and vendors.

The league has also committed to contribute to a billion-dollar endowment.

The fund will be steered by Black leadership with a clear goal to empower Black America. The fund will create long term solutions with a focus on Black entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, Black schools, banks, and other Black institutions, while addressing persistent social, economic and environmental disparities. It’s starting here, but the intention is to build a multi-billion-dollar endowment across multiple industries. Through our collective action, we can end the needless and preventable agony created by systemic racism.

We are pushing for an aggressive agenda to meet the urgent need of proper access, opportunity and inclusion. I am personally committed to creating meaningful conversations to hold corporations and institutions accountable for their contributions to racial justice.

It’s time for sustainable action. It’s time to speak and document the truth about what Black Americans are facing and owed. The system was never set up for everyone to have an equal chance. Black creativity and labor continue to be oppressed, exploited, appropriated, and undercompensated. And it’s STILL the case today that the color of your skin can be a death sentence like the needless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Bree Black, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others. That’s why we see people from all walks of life, races and creeds taking to the streets in fury, protesting. As a Black mother, I want my sons to grow strong and healthy with confidence and without fearing for their lives.

Four years ago, Colin Kaepernick’s resistance by taking a knee in silent protest was a brave and necessary stand to increase our awareness of the acts and consequences of police brutality. He is still way ahead of his time. What is being accomplished by this performance and these new commitments are meant to deeply honor that this moment is a direct result of his courage and prophecy.

There has been forward motion — the NFL has been working with players throughout the league to support important initiatives in the Black community, like education reform, economic empowerment, voting rights and criminal justice reform. With collective action and the truth as our guide, a new future is within our grasp. The time is now for building the America we want and desperately need. I am optimistic that if we take action and operate with a sense of urgency, together we will renew America and finally put an end to the false notion of racial hierarchy.

Moving forward we must act together with love over hate, hope over fear and action over complacency to build the America we all know is possible.

We invite all corporations, NFL clubs, and organizations to join this mission to invest in racial justice.

Look forward to my call.

With love and light,

Alicia Keys.
Artist/Activist/Mother”