Russell Okung, other players could skip upcoming meeting with owners

Los Angeles Chargersleft tackle Russell Okung, who attended the recent NFL owners-players meetings in New York, is not pleased with the league's efforts on social justice reform.

It's even possible that Okung and other players could decide to skip next week's meeting if their unhappiness with the league continues.

"I am disappointed that further progress has not been reached on discussions with the league," Okung said Thursday. "NFL officials appear unmotivated and don't share the same sense of urgency. Increasingly, the meetings appear unproductive at best and disingenuous at worst. Furthermore, the ongoing disparagement of Colin Kaepernick is a factor needing remedy for the players and public to feel heard and for real progress to be made."

Okung was expecting more from the league.

"I thought there were concrete plans to help," Okung said. "To my dismay, that wasn't true at all. It's only remained as just talking. There hasn't been any action.

"It's disappointing, because anytime the NFL says it cares about something, like breast cancer awareness, domestic violence, concussions, it comes out in force. So far we haven't seen that."

ESPN obtained a memo that Arthur McAfee, theNFL's senior vice president of player engagement,sent to the league's directors of player engagement on Wednesday. McAfee wrote that, based on last week's meetings between owners and players, the sides will focus on specific areas to create "a pathway forward on player advocacy in the NFL," including:

Media amplification and platform development: Launching a new league platform spanning Weeks 13-15 and into January and including the Super Bowl.

Community engagement and education:Supporting year-round national and market-specific community activities.
Public policy and government affairs:Executing a team-driven advocacy strategy at the local, state and national level.

The memo concluded by saying, "As you can see, we have addressed the specific issues of the Players Coalition and are enacting the plan in the spirit of our discussions. Please be encouraged to share this in the locker room and engage your players to see if there are any outstanding community issues."

Okung acknowledged there have been attempts to promote individual players in the community, but he believes not enough has been done, and he said other players feel the same way.

They are encouraged by the talk, but so far discouraged with the results.

Representing the players at the last meeting were NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith and president Eric Winston, former player Anquan Boldin, and current playersMalcolm Jenkins,Eric Reid,Darius Butler, Kenny Stills, Julius Thomas, Michael Thomas, Mark Herzlich, Kelvin Beachum, Demario Davis, Chris Long, Josh Norman and Okung.

"We felt like the meeting went really well," Jenkins, a safety for the Philadelphia Eagles, said afterward. "Obviously we've been invited up here to be able to speak with owners about some of the issues of injustice that we've seen in our communities, and how as players we can use our platforms. And we just talked about how the owners could come alongside us collectively, collaboratively, [to] work together to create change, some real change."

"Conversations will continue, the dialogue will continue," he added. "As players we'll continue to work in our communities because we feel like that's the most American thing to do, to use your platform and influence. With the stage that we have as NFL players, and as a league in general, we feel a real responsibility to our country, to our communities, so we're working through ways to really have long-lasting, real change."

Players were skeptical going into the first meeting with owners; the level of trust between owners and players has been low in recent years due to a variety of issues tied to the commissioner's decisions and the collective bargaining agreement.

Some felt there was progress, but Okung said it has not been quick enough or substantial enough. And now it could impact the state of relations between the two sides, as well as attendance at next week's owners-players meeting in New York.

Thursday night, Okung said, "Any solution to this protest will require the owners to lend their full strength of support. Dean Spanos has but other team owners are reluctant. We need initiative from the league level, not only on the clubs."

Reid said Thursday that to his knowledge there is no such meeting scheduled.

"There's question marks around that because, as far as I know, there is no meeting," theSan Francisco 49ersveteransaid. "That's coming from my group message with the NFL players who were at the first meeting. So there is no meeting, as far as I know."

ESPN's Nick Wagoner contributed to this report.

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