Colts take steps to fight racism, social injustice


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – AUGUST 17: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay on the field before the preseason game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts are backing up recent comments by team personnel regarding racism and social injustice with actions.

Owner Jim Irsay announced Thursday the team is taking several steps to battle systemic racism and other forms of discrimination. The objective is to ensure diversity, equity and inclusion, cornerstones of the team’s business and community efforts.

Irsay noted the mission of the Colts is to entertain, unite and inspire “by winning the right way,’’ and added “that means we take our work off the field in communities across our city and state just as seriously as what we do on the field.

“In addition to the recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbrey and others, I have heard stunning testimonials from our players and our staff about their personal experiences with racism. In recent weeks you’ve also heard passionate words from our general manager, head coach, players and me about racism and injustice – and their specific and often intentional impact on our black friends and neighbors – and these words will continue to be reflected in how we operate, communicate and engage.’’

During the Colts’ recent virtual offseason program, Frank Reich used a good portion of one week to discuss racism and social injustice. He allowed the team’s Zoom meetings to be an open forum for players to discuss whatever was on their mind.

“Racism is vile, deplorable, detestable,’’ Reich said earlier this month. “There is no form of it that is acceptable and in no way can it be justified. Our black community has bore the brunt of this injustice far too long.’’

Shortly thereafter, general manager Chris Ballard spoke from the heart.

“I’ve been ignorant,’’ he said. “I’ve been ignorant to the real problem, and I’m ashamed of that. This is not a black problem. This is a white problem. This is an issue that we have to talk about and we can’t sugarcoat it.

“I haven’t listened. We haven’t listened as a country. White America refuses to listen.’’

Irsay’s actions include:

  •  creation of a new staff position, director of diversity, equity and inclusion. The individual will work across all internal departments on social responsibility, hiring, supplier diversity, education and training. 
  • creation of the Irsay Family Impact Scholarship. When fully established, it will help talented minority students with a financial need in achieving educational needs. Each year a selected individual will receive a scholarship that will cover the costs of a four-year education at I.U., the alma mater of Casey (Irsay) Foyt and Kalen (Irsay) Jackson. If the student opts for another college, the value of the four-year scholarship to I.U. would be applied to the college of choice.
  • formally recognizing and celebrating “Juneteenth,’’ which is June 19 and celebrates the freedom of formally enslaved individuals – primarily black Americans – following the Civil War. It will be a permanent company holiday.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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