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NFL & HBCU Week Announce Partnership

This is the latest step that the NFL has taken to elevate students and athletes from HBCUs since the league launched its HBCU initiative in 2016.

The NFL and the HBCU Week Foundation have announced a partnership to offer scholarships to incoming students at historically Black colleges and universities.

The NFL launched its HBCU initiative in 2016 to help build authentic relationships and professional bridges with HBCU students. The league hosted its annual HBCU Open House in August as well as the Diversity in Sports Medicine Pipeline Initiative, which connects students at HBCU medical schools with clinical rotations for one of eight NFL teams.

“For three years, we have been honored to partner with HBCU Week Foundation to provide high school students with scholarships to the HBCU of their choice,” said Arthur McAfee, NFL Senior Vice President of Football Operations Policy, Education and Relationship Management in a release. “The League understands the invaluable experiences—both on and off the field – that HBCUs provide their students, and we will continue to help high schoolers throughout the country get to these institutions and reach their fullest potential.”

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Ashley Christopher, CEO of the HBCU Week Foundation, told Boardroom in a phone interview that the organization’s relationship with the NFL began with league Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent.

“Troy came to Wilmington, Delaware and scouted out what we did here annually to promote HBCUs, and it was a priority for him to make sure that he supported it,” she said. “We are very intentional with aligning ourselves with companies that have like-minded missions because it is easy to start blurring those lines and we want to make sure the authenticity and passion that we have never dies.”

2022 marks the fifth year HBCU Week has occurred. Since then, the organization has helped more than 3,500 students earn admission to HBCUs and has awarded $50 million in scholarships. It also comes with recognizable ambassadors such as First Take host Stephen A. Smith and former New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.

As Jenkins said in a statement:

“The NFL has historically benefited from the talents of athletes and executives from HBCUs. But HBCUs also produce talent that oftentimes isn’t properly tapped. HBCU Week Foundation is providing students with an incredible opportunity to earn a scholarship at an established HBCU and connect with corporations and leagues, thus offering a pipeline to employment immediately after graduation. High school students should take notice that HBCUs have a lot to offer in terms of a quality education and mentorship.”

HBCU Week’s five-year growth has allowed the foundation to hold two events this year –one in Wilmington and another at Disney World in Orlando.

“Whenever people ask me what my vision is I tell people I want HBCU Week to be as big and as recognizable as the Super Bowl,” Christopher said. “I want our impact to be sustained in a way that you are forced to know who we are and what we do regardless of our interests. We are looking to continue our multi-city tour.”

She also teased future plans for the organization:

“Although this takes place in Wilmington Delaware, we are looking to continue our multi-city tour and pop up in different regions across the country every year.”

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