A group of NFL players donated $20,000 to fund a youth football team in Texas that is comprised of players who had their previous season interrupted after they took a knee during the national anthem last September.
The Colin Kaepernick-like protest by the Beaumont (Texas) Bulls -- a team of 11- and 12-year-olds -- led the league to cancel their final three games last season and resulted in the suspension of the coach. After the fallout, some parents of Bulls players created a new organization (Southeast Texas Oilers) in a different league (Texas Youth Football Association), but ESPN reported on Thursday that the switch came with a $20,000 price tag.
New England Patriots defensive back Devin McCourty, free-agent wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Philadelphia Eagles players Malcolm Jenkins and Torrey Smith were among the NFL players who donated $20,000 to fund the first season of the Oilers. The team has about 140 players ages 4-13, with about a third of the players coming from the Bulls.
"We wanted to make sure that we sent those kids the message that it's OK to stand up for what you believe in," Jenkins told ESPN. "We didn't want them to walk away from the season feeling punished for trying to do the right thing. We wanted to make sure that was rewarded and acknowledged and encouraged, so that was our main motivation for helping."
The donated funds allowed the Oilers to purchase all the equipment needed -- from helmets to tackling dummies -- for the upstart organization.
"I believe it's important for our youth to have a voice. To put a muzzle on them is a disservice to everyone," Smith said in a statement to ESPN. "We must continue to educate them and empower them to be the leaders of tomorrow. They need to know that their influence transcends the football field. Protesting in a non-traditional way shouldn't keep our youth from playing the game we all love."