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Texans’ Michael Thomas on voting rights: Players now feel they can ‘speak out against the injustices’

Houston Texans Safety Michael Thomas joins Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the NFL Players Association’s launch of the "Dropping Jewels” campaign.

Video Transcript

ZACK GUZMAN: Welcome back to Yahoo Finance Live. April is Financial Literacy Month. And to help close the financial gap, the NFL is starting a very interesting new initiative. The NFL Players Association, to be specific, teaming up with Goalsetter, a Black-owned personal finance education app to bring financial literacy to the classroom through a program dubbed Dropping Jewels, where NFL players not only bring some cash to students through Goalsetter's accounts to get kids started, but also drop jewels of financial knowledge, perhaps wisdom from their own experience.

And joining us now for more on all of that is a player at the forefront of all of this. Houston Texans safety Michael Thomas joins us now, alongside Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade, of course, our expert in education. I want to bring him into the mix. And Michael, it's a very interesting program to do this because we talk so much about how financial literacy programs alone might not be enough. But this actually gets cashed into the classroom. Talk to me about what you guys are trying to do with the partnership like this to really bring it into kids that might not even know how this all works.

MICHAEL THOMAS: Absolutely. I'll say that was probably one of the first things that got my attention, right? But what Goalsetter and what Tanya Van Court is doing by, you know, not only introducing savings and actually investing to the youth, but allowing them to actually have the opportunity to earn money by taking quizzes, by learning through the app, you know, the more they use the app, the more quizzes they take, they can actually earn an allowance. And I think that's very vfun. It's an attention grabber and something that will probably help these kids want to learn more about finances and savings and investment.

REGGIE WADE: Michael, Reggie Wade here. I was a former teacher, so I know how tough it could be to get some stuff through to the kids. What--

MICHAEL THOMAS: Right.

REGGIE WADE: --is the approach you go through when you speak to the younger generation, especially on important topics like financial literacy?

MICHAEL THOMAS: Absolutely. And like you said, like, how can you not only get their attention, but make it, you know, like, something likeable, something that they want to learn, right? And the techniques I use and what I love about what Tanya Van Court and Goalsetter is doing is, they're reaching the kids where they are. You know, they're making it fun. They're making it something that they're into. Like, they're using pop culture. They're using gifts to teach these kids about financial literacy. And that gets their attention.

And then, also, incentivizing them, being able to, like, hey, the more you use the app, you know, the more opportunities you'll have to take quizzes, the more you'll be able to actually earn allowances. And, you know, that's going to keep the kids wanting to use that and wanting to learn more. And, you know, Dropping Jewels, this specific initiative that the NFLPA is partnering with Goalsetter is, you know, teaming up with a couple of NFL players. They reached out to myself, a couple of guys, Richard Sherman, Russell [INAUDIBLE], Thomas [INAUDIBLE], Byron Jones, just to name a few.

And we're going to go pop into class, and I'm going to my middle school, Grantham Academy. And we're going to pop into these classes and just, you know, teach these kids about some of the stuff we learned along our journey in the NFL, some of the things that we wish we knew when we were their age and actually surprise those classrooms with their first savings account. So I mean, it's going to be fun. It's going to be exciting and just a way to introduce them, again, to finance, to savings and investing.

REGGIE WADE: Michael, what is the most important lesson you learned as a football player that you look to bring into the classroom with these kids?

MICHAEL THOMAS: Man, I try to tell them that, you know, it's never too early to start saving. And it's never too early to start investing. They're like, you know, what does that mean? I mean, you know, I teach them about OK, you get money, and, you know, you take a certain percentage out and you put it into your savings account, right? Well, it's great because you know you'll have some, you know, I guess, funds for a rainy day to, you know, to make it easy for them to understand.

But we use that example of, do you want $30,000, you know, every single day for 30 days, or do you want a penny for 30 days that doubles every single day and see what their answers are. And, you know, it's always surprising for everyone the first time they hear, no, you want the penny that doubles because that teaches compound interest in that you'll actually have $5 million if you do the penny versus the $900,000 you do the $30,000 every single day.

So just doing exercises like that and letting them know, look, it's never too early to start learning about saving. It's never too early to start learning about investing. I wish I would have knew more about it when I was their age. I wish I would have had an app like Goalsetter that would allow me to learn or earn allowances by just taking quizzes on an app. You know, like, I mean, they are way more advantaged than we were when we were kids.

AKIKO FUJITA: Michael, we've seen sports thrust itself right into the middle of a lot of political debates over the last year, and the MLB now right at the heart of this discussion of voting rights after they pulled their All-Star Game out of Atlanta to protest Georgia's new voting law. We heard from the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell talking about these NFL Votes initiatives that the league has pushed forward, saying this is a nonpartisan way to have a meaningful discussion.

But we've also heard a lot of Black executives come forward and say, this is an issue where you need to be on one side or the other. Do you think the league needs to take a stronger stance on this when you consider there are 43 states right now that are considering laws to restrict voting in some way?

MICHAEL THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, you look at that when it comes to voter suppression. And, you know, trying to change laws to restrict voting even more than what it already is, I mean, you can't stand for it, right? I think, yeah, and obviously, the league has come out and put out a statement. I can assure you that all the players, you know, with everything going on in our country these past few years, you know, that momentum and that energy won't stop.

You'll see players continue to be leaders in their community, continue to try to push those efforts forward and try to say, like, no, we can't support voter suppression. We can't support these laws as restricting voting even more. And you'll see players step up and lead. You'll see our union step up and lead. And, you know, we'll continue to push, along with the league, that we don't support it.

AKIKO FUJITA: And it seems like over the last season we have seen the league really come to the table on this. The players have been out front on the activism around this discussion about racism and social justice. Do you feel like you have the league's backing on this particular issue, that they have come out strong enough?

MICHAEL THOMAS: I'll say this, like I've said, you know, in plenty interviews, but especially within these last couple of years. You know, where we started in 2016 when, you know, players use their voices in their platform like Colin, myself, Eric, Kenny, you know, taking a knee, you know, to fight against systemic oppression, police brutality and all that stuff, where we were in 2016 to where we are now, I'll definitely say players feel like they have a space where they can speak out against, you know, these injustices against what's really going on in our country and feel like that they won't be punished. So, to answer your question, I feel like it's definitely improved since 2016. And players will continue to use that energy and that momentum to keep pushing these initiatives forward.

ZACK GUZMAN: Yeah, the spotlight for sure has definitely grown. And, you know, you're lending your spotlight here to this initiative, too. When we talk about the league versus players, I guess versus is the interesting word to be using there because it--

MICHAEL THOMAS: Right.

ZACK GUZMAN: --sometime can feel like confrontation, but you all are in it together. And interesting to see--

MICHAEL THOMAS: Absolutely.

ZACK GUZMAN: --that move to expand the season here into 17 games now. That was one where you kind of heard from players saying, look, we don't want to deal with injuries and deal with more of this. But obviously, there is money at stake here. What do you think about that decision as a player to expand the season and how that all went down?

MICHAEL THOMAS: Yeah, I mean, I served on the executive committee of our NFLPA as the vice president. I think our president JC Tretter has done an amazing job of, one, educating our players on hey, this is the CBA we signed. This is what, you know, what we gave up in exchange for the extra, you know, percentage, the extra money that we'll be getting. And we all knew we understood, like, no, do players want to play a 17th game and add the extra risk of injury?

No, but at the same time, we signed off on it in the CBA, knowing that we're going to increase the revenue. We'll be able to fund all these new increases in pay, increases in benefits, especially for our retired players as well, by playing this extra 17th game. We said we wanted a bigger share in the revenue. We said we wanted more money in our benefits. We said we wanted to increase our salaries, right? Get more guarantees in our salaries. Well, in exchange, the NFL wanted that 17th game.

So we signed off on it. We signed a CBA. And again, I think the NFLPA, our union, and our president JC Tretter has done an amazing job, educating everyone, understanding, like, look, this is what we signed off for. These are the gains we made. And this is how we'll protect ourselves by changing some of the rules in the offseason and during the season to keep us healthy.

REGGIE WADE: Michael, moving back to the Goalsetter campaign, what if you speak to a kid and they say, I want to be you. I want to be in the NFL. What advice would you give them?

MICHAEL THOMAS: I'll tell them this. Like, look, obviously, I was able to accomplish-- I live out a dream that I had since I was their-- literally their age, right, to play in the NFL. However, there are so many other ways that you can have success and that you can live out your dreams. And maybe-- I know most of the time, like, kids say they want to play in the NFL because they want to help out their families. They want to change their situation. So I'll always tell them, like, look. If it's your dream to play in the NFL, go chase it. These are things you need to do.

But at the same time, I'll introduce them to, you know, different aspects of education. Like, look, you can go to college and become a doctor. You can become a lawyer. You know, go into finance. You can go into anything, teaching, like, social sciences. You can be successful in many ways. You can become, you know, a master of education and come back and teach and still have that type of success, can still help out your family. Don't think that making it to the NFL is the only way. However, if that's your dream, go chase it. Go for it.

AKIKO FUJITA: Michael, it's been a pleasure having you on the show today. Michael Thomas, Houston Texans safety, we hope to have you back on the show again soon. Our thanks to Yahoo Finance's Reggie Wade as well.