The first time I saw this ad for the NFL’s “Inspire Change” program was when it premiered earlier this month during the AFC and NFC Championship games. The 60-second ad, set to air again during the Super Bowl, is about Corey Jones, cousin of retired NFL star Anquan Boldin, who was tragically shot and killed by an officer in plain-clothes who came upon Corey unwarranted and never identified himself as law enforcement.
The heartbreaking story is told by Anquan Boldin of how his cousin Corey Jones was murdered by a police officer and goes on to show a reenactment of the unprompted shooting: Corey’s car had broken down and he was waiting for a tow-truck on an I-95 exit ramp when (at the time) Palm Beach Gardens Police Dept. officer Nouman Raja entered the exit ramp from the wrong direction in an unmarked vehicle; as he approached Corey’s car in plain-clothes, Raja, who failed to say that he was police, began yelling and cursing, and proceeded to fire multiple shots into the car, killing Corey. Next, the ad shows news clips and Jones’ family reacting to the loss of Corey.
When I first saw this ad, I found it to be powerful and profound for bringing attention to the issue of blatant, unjust stopping, harassment, brutality and killings of minorities, specifically black men by law enforcement across the United States. This systematic and recurring issue is one that needs to be dealt with; and to air it on such large stages as the NFL conference Championships and the Super Bowl is what I thought to be a step in the right direction. However, an article by AdAge.com suggests that the NFL’s motive behind the “Inspire Change” program is actually to save-face, in terms of PR perspective, by funding initiatives run by players or ex-players to distract the public from the fact that the NFL essentially banned Colin Kaepernick for protesting police brutality, and this specific ad, involving the cousin of ex-49er Boldin, brings up some pretty clear controversy and hypocrisy. Does the NFL support protesting or bringing attention to social issues, such as police brutality, or not? Is raising awareness okay as long as it’s off the field? Then why air this during the most watched NFL games of the year?