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NFL exec explains how the definition of success has ‘moved’ over the years

Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations & Former NFL Player, and Anna Isaacson, NFL Senior Vice President of Social Responsibility, join Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the sports league's activism initiatives to address systemic racism, player misconduct, and efforts to raise diversity in teams' management.

Video Transcript

DAVE BRIGGS: This month marks two years since the NFL committed a quarter of a billion dollars over 10 years to combat systemic racism in a program they call Inspire Change. So how much progress has been made toward their goals? Let's discuss with NFL Executive Vice President Troy Vincent, a five-time Pro Bowler who played 15 years in the league and SVP of Social Responsibility Anna Isaacson. Also with us, Yahoo's Marquise Francis. Nice to have you all here, very much appreciated.

Troy, we'll start with you. Beyond the money, which is certainly significant, how do you quantify success in this department?

TROY VINCENT: It's moved. I mean, and it's changed our initial-- most just go back to '16-'17, but I would say in the modern era, we actually started this journey after the killing and the murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson back in 2014, with Tavon Austin, and Jared Cook, and Kenny Britt. And that really started this new era of, what does social justice look like? How do the players and club owners-- how do they find the right integration of the sport, which we all love, and participate, and play, and then really addressing some of these systemic racism issues?

And I've just seen since 2014 when I was a player back in the early-'90s, I celebrate the young men, I celebrate the owners for what they're willing to do and the steps that they've taken towards making progress in this area.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: And, Anne, coming over to you, what has the league, and, more specifically, league leadership executives and owners learned about the NFL's responsibilities to moving the needle on social justice, particularly after Colin Kaepernick?

ANNA ISAACSON: You know, I think we always believe that it's our job at the NFL to make a difference in communities. We know we're lucky to have a platform that millions of people are watching, and we don't take that for granted. And so when there are American issues, issues that affect all of us, we think it's our responsibility to step in.

I think that commitment comes from the top. It comes from commissioner and it comes from our owners who have really led the way, and empowered us to do this work, and have made that commitment for all these years that Troy talked about.

DAVE BRIGGS: What do you think, Anna, is the enduring lesson of Colin Kaepernick and how that was handled?

ANNA ISAACSON: I think Colin and several other players, some that Troy named and even more, they really led the way. They led the way through their actions-- not only through their protests, but through their advocacy. They stood up for issues and they taught us a ton.

And as commissioner said, we could have and should have listened sooner. But what they were doing is they were standing up for humanity and for all Americans. And I think we decided to get on board and to dive in with players leading the way. And they've taught us a ton.

They continue to lead the way on our Inspire Change initiative. We collaborate on everything we do with the Players Coalition, and other players throughout the league, and NFL legends to really figure out, where are we going to focus on social justice? There's a lot of issues in social justice. But we've worked with players to determine where we dive in.

That's education, economic advancement, community and police relations, and criminal justice reform. And those four pillars that we've established have really come to be because of the partnership and collaboration with players. And I think if it wasn't for players like Colin, like others, like Eric Reid, like Kenny Stills, and like Tavon Austin and others back in the 2014-2015, we wouldn't be where we are today with such a commitment to social justice from the entire NFL family.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: And, Anna, we recognize, obviously, a lot of that progress, but we also recognize some of those challenges. And we also know that disciplinary hearings continue today for star QB on the Browns, Deshaun Watson. He settled with 20 of the 24 women accusing him of sexual harassment and/or assault during massages. Detective Kamisha Baker testified she has no doubt a crime--

DAVE BRIGGS: Was committed, yeah.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Was committed. And what message-- so my question to you, Anna, is, what message do you feel as though this sends to women, the fact that Deshaun may be back on the field this season?

ANNA ISAACSON: You know, I think-- listen, these are really challenging issues. And I think when we have a situation like we have with Deshaun or with any situation that impacts the NFL off the field, it just strengthens our resolve to do more. We made a commitment in 2014 that we were going to dive in deep on domestic violence and sexual violence. And we have done that. And we remain committed in that area.

And we established a process to go through. And we're going through that process right now.

DAVE BRIGGS: And, Troy, to you on Deshaun Watson-- the Houston Texans are also being sued. They actually prepared NDAs for some of these women who gave massages. Then there's the Cleveland Browns, who handed him $230 million guaranteed. And interesting, of that money, only $1 million came in year one, which seems like a suggestion that they knew he did something very wrong. What's your takeaway from this? And again, what message does it send if he's right back on the field this season?

TROY VINCENT: Well, I think we all just hope that the process that was put in place, that the right thing is being done. And it's in the court right now in arbitration. And you just hope that the evidence that was either discovered, that the truth comes out. And, , frankly this is not a good time for anyone.

And issues that deal with women, violence against women, sexual assault against women-- those are our issues. Deshaun just happens to be a professional football player. And these issues are-- they're unique. And again, we just hope and, frankly, I pray that the right decision-- that the judge makes the right decision and we can put this aside.

But we still have to educate. We have to educate young men and young ladies around just these issues around whether it's violence against women, sexual assault-- this is our issue. It's a problem. It's been a problem in our society for centuries.

MARQUISE FRANCIS: Absolutely. And as a follow-up, back to you, Anna, because you have all these great initiatives, which, once again, they're honorable, right? Donating $250 million to social justice organizations, putting things like End Racism in the end zones and decals on helmets, even promoting these organizations, which I know there's a slew of them-- over two dozen.

And the NFL is somewhere between 60% to 70% Black and its players. And yet, there's still just for Black coaches with more than 30 NFL teams. Despite the work you all have done, particularly adding the Rooney Rule-- and I understand teams are always going to be hiring the best candidate-- is the league saying there are not enough qualified Black coaches?

ANNA ISAACSON: I think we've been really clear that we are committed to diversity, equity, inclusion, and diversity at the head coach level. And I think we've been clear that we're not satisfied with the results in those areas, and that we're doing everything we can to make improvements. I think when we talk about these issues and we talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion and having gender and racial diversity throughout our ranks, not only at the head coach position, but at the GM position, throughout coaching, throughout our front offices-- I think that's an effort that is ongoing that we are putting an incredible amount of time and emphasis on, again, from leadership, commissioner on down. And we recognize there's more work to do there. And we'll continue to do that-- everything that it takes to get better.

DAVE BRIGGS: Brian Flores, now an assistant with the Steelers, suing the league and three teams over discrimination. We talked players, we've talked coaches, let's talk owners. The Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder refusing to accept a congressional subpoena regarding sexual harassment and a toxic work culture there in Washington. Troy, can we have a different standard for players than we have for owners?

TROY VINCENT: No. And we hope that we don't have that, or a particular bias towards, as we would say, management and owners. It shouldn't be. Policy's policy.

And again, this is in the legal system. And we just hope that these things are resolved so that we can focus in on the things that we have in front of us, which are the things that we've outlined in the area of social justice. You referenced the four-- there are actually three Black head coaches in the National Football League.

And that's a problem that we've been hitting head on to try to address those things-- four Black offensive coordinators. So we got a lot of progress to make. But Daniel Snyder and the Washington Commanders issue, again, that's at the highest level of government. And we hope that resolves at some point in time.

But I must say, as Coach Rivera has been there and Jason Wright, that culture has changed. I was once a player, represented the Washington Football Team at one time in my professional career, and Coach Rivera is a tremendous leader. I think that culture has changed under new leadership.

But again, there's still some questions, I think, that people have for Daniel and others. And hope that gets resolved sooner than later.

DAVE BRIGGS: And finally, the NBA was quick to issue a statement after the Roe v Wade decision was overturned. They reaffirmed their support for women making their own health decisions. Anna, why has the NFL not done so? Would you like to see the league make a statement supporting women?

ANNA ISAACSON: We have communicated with our employees the importance of health care and making sure that our employees understand that we support them and we take care of them. Women's issues, gender issues are of utmost importance to the NFL.